WATCH: Whitburn and Cleadon Junior Football Club march in protest over proposal to sell off their pitches
Over 150 players from Whitburn and Cleadon Junior Football Club marched through the streets in protest over plans to sell off their home pitches to housing developers.
Scores of players,wearing their full strips, were joined by parents and coaches on the march from Cornthwaite Park in Whitburn and the Britannia Inn in Cleadon Village to the Cleadon Lane Playing Fields today, where a sponsored fun run and friendly games were held.
The playing fields, in Whitburn, are owned by the council, but have been the club’s home for 27 years and could be lost to a 113-home scheme.
The club armed with referee’s whistles and red cards, hoped the march would call on the community to help boot the controversial bid into touch.
The five hectare site, which is in the heart of the green belt in the village conservation area, has been earmarked as suitable for potential future development by South Tyneside Council as part of a Strategic Land Review.
The review is a draft assessment of sites deemed most suitable to meet housing requirements over the next 20 years.
Paul Graham, 62, is the secretary of the club, who play in the Russell Foster Youth Leagues and Durham County League. He said parents of players have already delivered 6,000 leaflets to homes across Whitburn and Cleado, asking residents to support them in their campaign to retain the playing fields.
He said: "The club has been here since 1989, that's 27 years and for me, it is the last bastion of community life in Whitburn and Cleadon.
"We get a lot of kids from East Boldon, Cleadon and South Shields playing with us and next season we have around 17 teams with over 200 kids from as young as three to 17 years old using the field.
"But the council have earmarked the fields for housing development. I just wonder where the kids are going to be playing in the next 20 years if they build on sites like this.
"We are one of the biggest clubs in South Tyneside and we have a lot if support for this campaign. The consultation period is July 31, meaning we have two weeks to express our opinion, so that is the point of today."
Concerned parent Cheryl Brice, 37, a teacher from Boldon, was at the march with her son Theo Brice, six, and daughter Rosie Brice, 3. Theo plays on the under sevens team and trains on the field three times a week. She said they had to act to prevent it from being lost to the club.
"The main thing is that the fields provide somewhere for children to go out and play sport," she said.
"The playing fields have been with the club for the last 27 years and it would be awful to see them go.
"The fields are a big area of green, open space that is used by so many people.
"My son plays on the under sevens team and trains with the club three times a week.
"Today is about trying to get everyone together to raise awareness this huge issue."