Planning permission for change of use to a Heritage and Eco Park with car parking, play areas, woodland planting, grazing areas and wetland creation was approved by Sunderland City Council’s Planning and Highways Committee yesterday evening.
Councillors also have the green light to outline planning permission for the community farm, camping/education facilities and a miniature railway on the 61-hectare site.
This is the second phase of proposals for the former golf course. Planning permission to change the former clubhouse into a community-run garden centre and plant nursery with a cafe, meeting space, heritage interpretation and training facilities was secured in February 2022. The cafe and garden centre are due to open in late March.
Councillor Claire Rowntree, Hetton Councillor and Deputy Leader of Sunderland City Council who, lead member for this project, chairs the Elemore Project Group, said: “This is another major milestone in Elemore’s transformation into a country park.
“The local community has been at the heart of these plans. They wanted to see a new country park that would provide a safe recreational space for families, including a nature reserve/wildlife sanctuary with nature/walking routes and cycle tracks, a cafe and play areas. And that’s what we’re working hard to deliver”.
Plans for the site were shaped by a “Let’s Talk Elemore” resident consultation. This saw residents identifying their hopes and aspirations for the derelict golf course, along with their desire to see it transformed into usable greenspace with measures to address high levels of anti-social motorbike and quad bike use, vandalism and litter.
The country park will make up the most significant element of the site, with approximately 55 hectares of open greenspace, connected by a network of paths, seating, bird hides, sculptures and interpretation boards leading throughout the extensive woodland, hedgerow planting, wetland creation and wildflower meadow planting. The park will also include a number of play-on-way facilities.
As part of the project to bring new life into the former golf course, 15,747 trees have already been planted as part of plans to establish a North East Community Forest, and in support of the late Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations last year. Trees planted by local schoolchildren as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy in December 2021, and by community groups and local residents, including Councillor Rowntree in March last year, have helped transform 6.75 hectares overall of land into new woodland, wildflower grassland and hedgerows.
As a city, Sunderland has made a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2040 and initiatives like tree planting at Elemore play an important role in helping the city achieve this ambition as well as generating wider health and well-being benefits.
The former golf course was built on the site of the former Elemore Colliery and spoil heap which was reclaimed in the 1990s. The majority of the site is made up of open grassland with areas of mature woodland and formal/informal footways. It also has several ponds and streams.
Following planning approval, the remaining works to the country park will continue throughout 2023 and 2024 and beyond as further investment is secured.