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150 protest over Gosforth Park Nature Reserve plans

1st November 2011

MORE than 150 people went on a protest walk yesterday at Gosforth Park Nature Reserve, which is threatened by future new housing. Newcastle City Council is deciding whether to allocate green belt land neighbouring the site for 600 homes.

Campaigners say development would cut off reserve wildlife from the surrounding countryside – making it unable to survive – and cut off its link to the city’s green heart, through to Jesmond Dene.

James Littlewood, director of the Natural History Society of Northumbria, which manages the site next to Newcastle Racecourse, told the protesters: “We are here to show our support for the special wildlife which lives in this area and how we are upset by Newcastle City Council plans to damage that wildlife forever.

“Newcastle City Council has not gone out of its way to make these plans widely known. Everyone I have spoken to about these plans has been shocked and outraged.”

He said the 150-acre site, which is one of the UK’s oldest nature reserves, is home to species of owls, bats, otters, red squirrels, deer and badgers, which roam and forage through a wide surrounding area. Mr Littlewood added: “This is a nature reserve, not a zoo with the animals locked up conveniently inside. Without the ability to forage they will not survive.”

He said traffic, and residents’ dogs and cats pose further hazards to the wildlife. Protesters walked the boundary of the area proposed for housing. Among them were teacher Michael Woods, 51 and wife Susan, 48, of Gosforth’s Garden Village.

Michael said: “We are concerned about the wildlife. We have seen owls, herons and bats on the bridle path near us. Our wider concern is flooding. The water gets very high at Densmire Bridge and extra housing would exacerbate that.”

Jo and Will Allen, both 35, of Grange Park, brought 14-month-old daughter Charlotte to the protest.

Jo said: “We use the bridle path regularly, take Charlotte for a walk there and I go running there. We had no idea of the extent of the development.”

Mr Littlewood said the reserve faces further pressure from 300 proposed homes on land to the North, owned by North Tyneside Council.

A further public protest is planned for 5.30pm on Wednesday outside Newcastle Civic Centre, when Mr Littlewood will address a meeting of the council. And a public meeting with planners is being held at 7pm on November 15 at Gosforth Civic Hall.

Concerned residents are being urged to write to the city council before January 4.

For more information see www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk or search Facebook for “Save Gosforth Wildlife”.