A green space in the South Tyneside village of Cleadon has been protected forever to ensure it will always be there for the community to use and enjoy.
At a plaque unveiling ceremony last week, Oakleigh Gardens Playing Fields became the fourth green space to be legally safeguarded by South Tyneside Council, joining spaces in Boldon, Hebburn and Jarrow.
The protection of the playing fields on the site of the former Oakleigh Gardens School was championed by local residents, including Phil Toulson who has memories at the space stretching back over five decades: "I first played rugby at Oakleigh Gardens over 50 years ago. Granting Fields in Trust status to the fields will safeguard the area for recreational use for at least another 50 years."
The Playing Fields cover some 3.5 hectares and consist of two sports pitches currently used for football and cricket, separated by a path, with a small changing facility available for users. It is the first green space in Cleadon to be legally protected with Fields in Trust, ensuring the local community will always have provision close to home.
Local parks provide benefits to our physical and mental health, to our communities and to the natural world around us. Legally protecting these spaces is vital to ensure these benefits can never be lost. The Green Space Index finds that the North East region as a whole does not meet a minimum standard of green space provision. At 29sqm of provision per person, it has less than the nationwide average of per capita provision and nearly 100,000 residents in the region do not have a green space within a ten-minute walk of home. This is despite the proven benefits these spaces provide; our research estimates green spaces save the NHS around £111 million per year based solely on a reduction in GP visits.
South Tyneside Council's action to protect Oakleigh Gardens Playing Fields for good safeguards these benefits for current and future generations of Cleadon residents. The Council's other protected spaces are King George V Playing Field in Boldon, King George V Playing Field in Jarrow and Lukes Lane Sports Field in Hebburn and they are currently exploring options for expanding their portfolio further.
Oakleigh Gardens Playing Fields is now one of four green spaces across South Tyneside which are protected forever to ensure they will always be there for communities to use and enjoy.
Speaking about the protection, Deputy Leader of South Tyneside Council, Councillor Joan Atkinson, said: "Local people are passionate and protective about this open green space and have always enjoyed it for recreational use.
"Our partnership with Fields in Trust means that these playing fields will always remain so, safeguarded for generations to come. This is a great boost for the physical health and wellbeing of local people and for the environment.
"There has been a lot of work behind the scenes to secure this added protection for Oakleigh Gardens playing fields. The local community have played a key role in the process, championing the site for Field in Trust status."
Chief Executive of Fields in Trust, Helen Griffiths, said: "Parks and green spaces play a vital role in all our lives and over recent years we have seen a major shift in the way people talk about, visit and value their local parks. Our parks provided a lifeline throughout lockdown and now, we can all play our part to make sure local green spaces will remain a healthy part of the local environment forever.
"We congratulate South Tyneside Council on legally protecting Oakleigh Gardens Playing Fields, enabling residents to have somewhere to enjoy themselves, boost their health and wellbeing, build community connections and make life-long memories, contributing to a happier and healthier local community who can enjoy this green space for good."
You can support our work and help protect more green spaces just like Oakleigh Gardens Playing Fields by making a donation - your contribution will help ensure future generations will have high quality green spaces close to where they live which are inclusive, benefit the health and wellbeing of communities and support the natural world. Make a donation online.