Sunderland City Council proposed plans which could see development in the pitches of the Southern Area Playing Fields in Washington turned into a housing estate.
The Council’s Core Strategy and Development Plan proposed that the football pitches, off Bonemill Lane in Rickleton, could be transformed into over 200 new homes.
The proposals have been met by opposition from Washington United FC and local MP Sharon Hodgson.
Mick Trainer, Secretary of Washington United FC, said: “The site belongs to the people of Washington; it has since Washington was created, long before Sunderland Council took over ownership of Washington. We believe morally they have no right to sell the land.
“The impact of that site being sold for housing is not just to us a club who would lose our home but the site is green belt land and a wildlife corridor as well. Local residents are telling us they don’t want housing there and support our plans for the site. If we lose a site such as this it can never be replaced.”
Trainer added that the club would like to see the plan for this site scrapped and instead negotiate with the council to allow the club to take over the management of the site to provide the necessary investment and improvements to make that site reach its full potential and be at the heart of the community.
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West, backed up the club’s plea and wrote to the council with her constituents’ concerns.
She said: “Building new homes is of course important, but we must ensure that this is not at the expense of local communities who rely on and regularly use the green space.
“It is vital that local playing fields are protected so that children, families and sports teams can continue to have access to facilities, exercise and enjoy themselves.
“That is why I have written to the Council on this important matter, to represent my constituents’ concerns.”
A spokesperson for Sunderland City Council said that the Council have been in a lengthy dialogue with Washington United for several years about pitch provision, but that no decisions have been made on the future of the southern area playing fields at this time.