Plans for a bookable “dog walking field” on the outskirts of Sunderland have been submitted to council development bosses.

Sunderland City Council’s planning department has received an application for a plot of land near Back Lane and Hill Lane in the Penshaw area.

The application is seeking permission to change the use of agricultural land and to create a “secure dog walking field” with new access from Back Lane, a track and a parking area.

A planning, design and access statement submitted to council officials provides more details on plans for the 0.2 hectare site, which sits within a wider agricultural field parcel.

This includes “one bookable field to be used for dog walking and exercise” secured by a fence and gates, with customers provided with access codes upon booking sessions.

Supporting documents said the dog walking field would be “rentable for exclusive use and would offer 60 minutes booking sessions with a cross-over period in between each session”.

Proposed opening times would be during daylight hours,  with opening hours between 8am and 7pm in summer months and reduced times during the winter.

An online booking system would also control the number of visitors and traffic movements to and from the site.

According to planning documents, there would be a maximum of five dogs allowed in the field at any one time (per single booking).

Those behind the scheme noted there was an “increasing demand for secure dog walking fields” which help to “alleviate pressures on other public open spaces and recreational areas”.

The planning, design and access statement adds: “The dog walking field provides professional dog walkers and private households with an exclusive safe and secure recreational space to let their dog(s) off the lead without fear of poor recall, conflict with livestock or mixing with other dogs.

“It also provides a useful facility for those with mobility issues or young children, or for those who need to exercise their dogs safely without covering large distances, as well as being a safe space for any anxious dogs, service dogs or dogs with behavioural issues”.

It was also argued that the plan would support a “small local rural business” and the local community, including the “health and well-being of dogs and owners”.

A heritage statement submitted with the plan noted the parking area would accommodate up to two cars and would be “large enough to accommodate a panel van used by professional dog walkers”.

Elsewhere, the new access track would be made of ‘grasscrete’, a blend of concrete and grass, to “ensure it has a discreet appearance in the wider grassland and landscape”.

The heritage statement adds: “The overall appearance of the site is rural given its location within the countryside.  “The existing fencing and gates take a rural and discreet appearance and are both characteristic and commonplace in rural areas.

“No permanent fixed buildings or structures are proposed as part of this application that would materially affect the appearance of this site”.

In this context, it was argued that there would be “no harm to the significance of nearby [heritage] assets”, including Penshaw Monument, “as a result of the change of use”.

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A decision on the planning application will be made once a period of council consultation has concluded.

Sunderland City Council’s planning department lists a decision deadline of June 5, 2024.

For more information on the planning application or to track its progress, visit the council’s planning portal website and search reference: 24/00625/FUL