Sunday, 6 January 2008


Last week people living within the Beacon and Bents Ward received a newsletter from Mr Ahmed Khan outlining to siutaution regarding various planned developments in the area. As is standard with anything Ahmed covers, it makes very interesting reading.

See what you think

Many thanks to the Gypsies Green Action Group site for highlighting this pamphlet

THE BEACON Newsletter Update


I am writing to you to give you an update on the proposed Arbeia Fort Development & my application to register our sea front parks as a Town Green. If successful this would ensure our parks & open spaces would be protected from the constant threat of development/sell off by the council to plug any financial black holes created by there own mismanagement. It would also ensure that they are preserved for future generations to enjoy.

Many of you will be aware that I organised 2 public meetings on 10th & 31st July. At the second meeting I outlined a programme of action including registering the parks as a Town Green & organising 2 petitions – one opposing any Arbeia ‘visitor’ development in North Marine Park & one calling on South Tyneside Council to support the application for a own Green.

Councillor JOHN WOOD (accompanied by John Anglin) was present at the second meeting following a public invitation in the Gazette. You may recall Councillor WOOD’s comment about preserving our seafront! Remember those comments ‘our seafront is sacred’ and “you don’t hear about all the schemes put forward for the seafront’? Well Cllr. WOOD we wouldn’t if we’re not told & if you & your colleagues in the Cabinet push everything through secretly. Worse still you try & justify not telling us on the grounds of commercial sensitivity! I’ll return to ‘our sacred seafront’ later.

Whilst I was preparing the application & many of you were collecting signatures for the petitions it appears that Councillor WOOD immediately reported back to his Cabinet colleagues who in turn appear to have taken action in an attempt to undermine our application. How else would you explain the sudden appearance of 41 signs erected around the seafront parks on or around the 6th August (a week after the meeting) that Councillor WOOD attended? The wording on the signs states:

This park is owned by South Tyneside Council. Use of this park is not as of right for the purpose of section 22 of the Commons Registration Act 1965 (as amended). Use of this land is by right or else with the revocable permission of South Tyneside Council.

To understand the true meaning of the above statement one needs to understand the rules governing Town and Village Green Applications. In essence most applications for Town Green status are made using the 20 year rule. In effect you have to prove that the land in question has been used continually for 20 years or more for recreational/leisure purposes, the 20 years is backdated from the date of the application. In recent years many landowners have taken to either fencing land off or erecting signs stating that people using the land have no rights in relation to registering the land under the 20 year rule as soon as they find out about an impending application. The erection of the 41 signs by South Tyneside Council were a clear attempt to remove the public’s right to register the land under this rule as defined by the 1965 Act. The fact that these signs were erected so quickly & were in place before the application was received by the registration authority (who also happens to be South Tyneside Council) would normally have torpedoed any application to register the land as we would no longer be able to prove 20 years of continuous use. Cleary this demonstrates the fact that the council are not in favour of preserving our parks and open spaces & that that they may well have plans to sell off &/or build on our last remaining parks & open spaces.

It may interest you to know that I am in possession of council correspondence that state categorically the reasons why these signs were erected, here is a quote from the correspondence,

“The erection of the signs highlights the Council's ownership of the land and was deemed necessary to defend a Village Green application”.
… see overleaf
Interesting then that the council had not received an application to register the land at this stage, so where did the information come from? It doesn’t take a genius to work out that it more than likely came from Councillor JOHN WOOD & co.

The 41 signs refer to section 22 of the Commons Registration Act 1965 & clearly state that the public have no rights to claim the 20 year rule. However, this act was superceeded by the Commons Act 2006 which came into effect in April 2007. It seems that the Council were unaware of this new legislation despite receiving regular updates from DEFRA. If the had been they would not have erected signs quoting legislation that is no longer relevant, in effect the signs appear to be worthless. However the cost to you & I for yet another example of incompetence exceeds £800.

As far as the new Act is concerned Section 15 changes the legal definition of a town or village green and sets out the qualifying circumstances in which land may be newly registered. Essentially anyone can apply to have land registered as a green if it has been used by local people for recreation ‘as of right’ (i.e. without permission, force or secrecy) for at least 20 years. Interestingly it eliminates the problem of landowners withdrawing consent by either fencing the area off or stopping the public accruing ‘rights’ as South Tyneside Council have tried to do.

Instead the act provides a period of grace (currently 2 years) after use of land by local people ‘as of right’ has been ended by the landowner (as the council did on or around 6th August 2007), when an application to register it as a green can still be made (under the old legislation, an application had to be made immediately after use ‘as of right’ had been ended) which explains the council’s urgency to erect the signs!

On 24th August 2007 I submitted an application to South Tyneside Council to register land at North & South Marine Parks, Bents Park & Bents Park Recreational Ground (the Dragon) as a Town Green which was subsequently rejected due to a minor date error. I re-submitted the application on 5th October 2007 & this was duly accepted on 18th October.

Now back to Councillor WOOD’s ‘our seafront is sacred’ comment. Well since the public meetings & the announcement that a Town Green application was imminent there has been a flurry of activity on the seafront. Perhaps Councillor WOOD’s definition of ‘sacred’ really means spoilt or was it Costa Del Shields? However, we might call it something different, how about asset stripping or selling off the family silver? Let’s hope for the sake of future generations Santa was kind to him & left him a dictionary or better still a conscience. Here are a few examples of what Cllr WOOD really meant, judge for yourself?

1. The decision making Cabinet (of which Councillor JOHN WOOD is a member) announces plans to ‘sell’ Gypsies Green Stadium to Durham Estates Ltd so Tavistock Leisure can build a hotel & conference centre.

2. The Cabinet agrees to ‘sell’ (sorry lease) Sandhaven Caravan Park for 125 years to Northumbrian Leisure Ltd for a fee of £1.2 million with an annual ground rent of ‘one peppercorn’.

3. According to the South Tyneside Local Development Framework there are plans to ‘sneak’ through an expansion of the site in 2011. This includes a ‘small’ expansion of 1.2 hectares by encouraging on the adjacent Bents Recreation Ground, increasing the overall size to 4 hectares.

4. The Council asks Tribal Consultants to carry out a study looking at options for a new seafront leisure facility, an exercise that will cost around £40,000 in fees (on top of the £60,000 for the Arbeia Fort Report)

On the 18th December I received a letter informing me that the application had been referred to the Common Land and Town and Village Green Committee for preliminary consideration. The committee will meet on 9th January at the Town Hall (main council chamber) at 4pm. The meeting is open to the public and I strongly urge anyone who can attend to do so. This is the first stage of what I anticipate to be a long hard battle, a battle that I feel we can & must win on behalf of the people of South Tyneside, the wider region & more importantly the generations to come.

One final thought … Let’s not forget that once our precious parks and open spaces have gone they’ve gone forever, is this the legacy we want to leave future generations?

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a belated merry Christmas & best wishes for a happy & prosperous 2008.

Ahmed Khan
60 Julian Avenue, South Shields. NE33 2EW.
Tel. 0191 4560326 or e-mail

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