HUNDREDS of angry Newcastle residents packed a council meeting last night in protest at plans to build thousands of new homes on green belt land. Councillors were lobbied as they arrived for the meeting, and later – to loud cheers and clapping – the council agreed overwhelmingly to extend the consultation period by a further three months.
One speaker told the meeting that the council action plan was “deeply flawed”. They also heard a plea to save a top nature reserve at Gosforth Park. James Littlewood of the Natural History Society of Northumbria told the meeting that some wildlife could be lost forever if 600 homes were built next to a nature reserve.
Newcastle Council wants to build 21,000 homes as part of a long-term plan to “create more jobs and homes” – called the One Core Strategy. But residents in Gosforth Park now fear the worst.
Local dad John Simmonds arrived for the meeting with his young daughter. He said: “I am disappointed. We don’t want to lose green belt land. It’s important to protect wildlife. We like to go to the nature reserve. This is my main concern”.
It was a view shared by other residents who came from Lemington, Walbottle and Throckley, where there are proposals to build more than a thousand new houses.
Harry Harrington, 75, from Walbottle said: “They will destroy several bridleways if this goes ahead. They should be building on brownfield sites, not the green belt, which is the easy option”.
At Throckley, plans are already in hand to form a protest group called STOP. Founder Idawl John told the Chronicle: “We are planning to launch the group in a few weeks.
“I think they need to look at the plans again to have the right housing mix between green belt land and development.”
He also expressed concern at the lack of consultation so far: “They had one A4 size piece of paper on the council notice board. If they really wanted us to know what’s going on, they could have put notices in the doctor’s and post office. I have a cynical view about this,” he said.
Residents fear if the plans go ahead there will be an “ urban sprawl” through parts of Newcastle where there is now green belt land.
Eileen Liddane has lived in Lemington Rise for 25 years. She said: “I am disappointed. There will not be enough green space left. There would be an increase in traffic and pollution.”
Newcastle City Council insists the plans are not “cast in stone” and in the next few weeks there will be more meetings with residents
Coun Henri Murison, Cabinet member for Quality of Life said: “The views of the public and residents will be central to our decision. Our view is clear: brownfield sites must to prioritised.”
The consultation will stretch into the New Year and its unlikely a full plan will go before the council before September. Then there are likely to be more arguments. But concerned residents now realise they have a valuable breathing space to prepare their battle plans.