Questions over sale of Lord Mayor’s Field

Posted on 19th July 2023 | in Heritage & Tourism

Questions have been raised by residents and a local councillor about the sale of the Lord Mayor’s Field.

Residents claim that historically the land was given to Amble as a public space. They question why, if that was the case, it has now been sold to a private company.

The Lord Mayor’s Field is a popular recreational area

In 2002, Alnwick District Council leased the Amble Links caravan park and Lord Mayor’s Field to a private operator, until 2022 when Northumberland County Council (NCC) sold the land to Park Leisure 2000 for £12 million.

Questions have also been raised about whether the public were consulted or properly informed over the sale.

Resident Louise Little told The Ambler she was alerted to the status of the Lord Mayor’s Field after seeing a land surveyor working there. She told us she had written to NCC asking why there had been no public consultation, and whether the correct process was followed, but as yet she had had no response.

She said: “The Lord Mayor’s Field was and has been public open space for decades. It’s absolutely disgusting treating the people of Amble like second class citizens over profit for a company.”

The Ambler cannot find any proof that the land was ever formally gifted to the people of Amble. However it did become part of Alnwick District Council’s assets after Amble Urban District Council was dissolved. (See timeline below).

Land Registry documents a deed and covenants on the Lord Mayor’s Field in 1954, between Michael Lawson Smith and Amble Urban District Council. In 1963 AUDC bought the caravan park ‘and other land’. By 2022 the land had become part of Advance Northumberland’s portfolio. (Advance is a development arm of NCC).

Cllr Terry Clark (Amble East) said “I’ve tried via Advance to get answers and I’ve written to the County Council. I need answers and the community need answers. I hope the Council will engage with me to either provide reassurance or just basic information”.

Cllr Jeff Watson (Amble West with Warkworth and chair of Advance at the time of the sale) told The Ambler: “There hasn’t been any change in the conditions from when the land was leased to Park Leisure and when it was sold. There was no need to consult the public as Advance doesn’t generally consult when they sell land. I want to reassure people that the people of Amble will always have accesss to the Lord Mayor’s Field.”

Statement from Northumberland County Council and Advance Northumberland

A joint statement issued from Northumberland County Council and Advance Northumberland noted two conditions which had been placed on the sale of the land to Park Leisure 2000, on 10 January 2022:

•To restrict future development potential so that the site remains a caravan park, that no part of the site, (including the area of land known as the Lord Mayor’s Field), could be developed for residential purposes, until 2032, without the consent of Advance Northumberland, unless the owner can demonstrate to Advance Northumberland’s reasonable satisfaction that the site is no longer economically viable as a holiday park;

•To ensure that members of the public continue to have access to the site’s swimming pool as has been the case during Advance Northumberland’s [and the Council’s prior] ownership, that the owner of the site entered a contract with Northumberland County Council to maintain public access, for the same rates as the Council usually charge, unless it becomes uneconomic to keep the pool open.

The statement also said:

“These conditions will remain in force, even if there were a change of site owner.

“Regardless of conditions, any future use of Lord Mayor’s Field for residential development would require planning permission, and the new Local Plan shows that parcel of land as protected open space.”

A timeline of the Lord Mayor’s Field*
*as far as The Ambler has been able to determine

In 1934 the land was bought by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle and used as a holiday camp for poor children from Newcastle. More information on the activities at the camp can be found on Amble Town Council’s history trail information board.

John Grantham, Lord Mayor of Newcastle upon Tyne and Violet Grantham, Lady Mayoress, visiting the Lord Mayor’s Holiday Camp at Amble, Northumberland, 9 August 1937  Image: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

1936 The Lord Mayor’s Field is sold by Michael Lawson Smith to Adamson Dawson Russell (then Sheriff of Newcastle) and Samuel Smith. The conveyance of the land refers to ‘varied’ covenants. These included a ban on any manufacturing, trade or business on the land and no beer or alcohol was to be sold. An additional convenant forbid activity on the land ‘likely to cause a nuisance’.

From the Morpeth Herald 27 March 1936

The holiday camp closed in 1938 as war loomed on the horizon. During WW2 the field was likely requisitioned for war purposes as it was used as a POW and a displaced person’s (mostly eastern Europeans) camp.

1954 a deed and convenants on the Lord Mayor’s Field are documented. There appears to have been a formal legal partnership between Michael Lawson Smith and Amble Urban District Council. A clause releases the ban on trade and business, but keeps the rest.

1963 the caravan site and other land is sold by Robert Rice Forsyth to Amble Urban District Council.

1974 Amble Urban District Council is abolished. Records from AUDC are subsequently destroyed by Alnwick District Council.

2002 the caravan site, the amusement arcade, the Granary and the Lord Mayor’s Field is leased by Alnwick District Council to New Links Caravan Park Ltd. The stated permitted use of the Lord Mayor’s Field is: “use for landscaping and open space affording free access to members of the public and occupants of the Caravan Park.”

2009 Alnwick District Council is abolished, replaced by a unitary Northumberland County Council.

2013 Lord Mayor’s Field and caravan site are transferred to Arch (development arm of NCC).

2018 Arch is dissolved, replaced by Advance Northumberland (new development arm of NCC).

2022 (January) Lord Mayor’s Field and caravan site are sold by NCC/Advance Northumberland to Park Leisure 2000. A deed between the two parties notes the release of previous covenants.

2022 (February) Park Leisure is bought by SCI SG Bidco Ltd. Park Leisure takes out a 175 year lease for the caravan site from SCI SG Bidco. SCI SG Bidco is owned by Sun Communities Inc, a Real Estate Investment Trust, based in the USA and which trades on the NY Stock Exchange.


Update: This article has been updated to include the joint statement from NCC and Advance, and some additions to the timeline.

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4 thoughts on "Questions over sale of Lord Mayor’s Field"

  1. Matthew Connolly says:

    Apart from the possible loss of the fields to development and the now uncertain status of pool access which has had issues recent before this sale the main question seems to be economic. How is this a good deal for Advance/NCC? It swaps an income of £1.5m a year over a long lease term for a one off sale. Will this money be invested in Amble?

  2. Muriel Carter says:

    I fell over laughing how ridiculous are the Council. The land can not be sold the decision ;should be overturned as it was not theirs to sell. How corrupt are the Council; maybe they didn’t read the fine print.
    Anything to make a bob (which is a shilling; in the old money) or too.
    Smoke and mirrors go down well ;hence people don’t see what is really going on ;and by slide of hand it is all done; Corruption might best explain it.
    The matter should be referred to the Parliament; so who ever is your local member; and don’t take no for an answer.
    Next thing there will be a few more thousand house or a factory; and it will all be for the benefit of the community;.
    Amble needs the Parks and open spaces

  3. Chris Scott says:

    1. Were Amble UDC / Amble Town Council ever paid any money for the transfer of the Lord Mayor’s Field and Caravan Park to Arch / Advance Northumberland?
    2. Are people aware that Advance Northumberland is in severe debt, i.e. £281 000 000.00, and is likely to be dissolved within the near future? This debt is to N.C.C. and thus the residents of Northumberland will shoulder such.
    3. Why was N.C.C. on the board of Directors of Advance Northumberland when these sales occurred?
    4. Why was there no publicity, communication, or tendering process allowed?
    5. The limitations on the development of the land end in 2032 or at the whim of N.C.C.

  4. Carole says:

    No one cares a jot!!!!!!!

    Except for us (the common folk of Amble).

    The land belongs to us!

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