Gosforth Park Proposals: a response

On behalf of the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability, at Newcastle University, I am writing this to express complete dismay at the proposals to build some 600 houses on currently open land in the Salter’s Lane Neighbourhood Growth Area, as this land immediately adjoins Gosforth Park Nature Reserve, and as such provides essential foraging habitat for the wide range of animals that find refuge in the Reserve (for more details on the proposal, click here).

We believe that the loss of this habitat would destroy one of the last remaining quality habitats in the urban area, further threatening  protected species including badger, various bat species, otters and England’s last urban population of red squirrels. The Gosforth Nature Reserve is a SSSI, local wildlife site and Newcastle’s prime wildlife site. As such it has been, and remains, an essential asset to this University for teaching and research purposes.  It is also umbilically linked to the Great North Museum, which is a shared project between the University and the City, as well as being HQ to the owners of the Reserve, the Natural History Society of Northumbria.

I have no doubt that the loss of this land to housing would result in highly visible public outcry, as the site is in any case nationally treasured, being featured on the BBC’s Springwatch programmes, and referenced in the Forum for the Future designation of Newcastle as the greenest of the UK’s 20 largest cities.

Every year students and staff from Newcastle University undertake research projects in the reserve and also volunteer their time to help manage the site. One of the reasons is that this site is close to the University and therefore accessible to staff and students but more importantly it is not heavily compromised by visitor pressure or neighbouring development which means that the natural world can be studied.

It is only 10 years since the Council designated this areas as a Strategic Wildlife Corridor linking Jesmond Dene to the open countryside. As this corridor has since been hemmed-in by housing developments on the Great Park, its continued preservation is now of the utmost importance.

As such, NIReS calls on the Council to abandon Policy CS 3, or at the very least to remove the Salter’s Lane zone from its provisions.

Professor Paul Younger

Professor Paul Younger, Director, Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability (NIReS)

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5 Responses to Gosforth Park Proposals: a response

  1. Mark Bagott says:

    Thank you.
    This woodland area is treasured by many. It is the last vestige of real woodland on the edge of the city, The fields around should be included and protected- in fact given the very real fears of flooding locally- the land needs to be re-forested, to create even more of a “buffer zone”, for wild life, some area for recreation and for flood prevention. There is such a paucity of woodland in this area- when compared to many cities in the south of England (eg Plymouth, Southampton). This area is unique, and its “value” in terms of health benefits to the local community is incalculable.

    • Steve Emsley says:

      To build on these agricultural fields would be a wildlife crime.
      Many of the animals birds and bats in Gosforth reserve are rare and protected under law.
      The reserve is not a prison, the creatures come and go via the fields, hedgerows,
      streams and woodlands around. To build on these routes, feeding and breeding areas is to sentence them to death. We have roads to come and go by, they need these green areas around for their very survival . Bats feed over these fields, deer give birth to their fawns in them, otters come and go from the reserve to Jesmond Dene and the Tyne beyond it. Red squirrels move through the woodlands connecting the reserve to the Dene. We are the last British city with red squirrels surviving in it. Are we not proud of this. Do we not want to defend it ?

      Humans are not an endangered species and will survive perfectly well without trashing the last shreds of wildlife co-existing with us in Newcastle. So my message to the Council planners is back off. I dont want to live in a concrete jungle with just one species: Homo-Destructitalls.

  2. Pingback: Prof. Paul Younger’s response to the plans

  3. The plans are based on a programme that simply does not match current economic reality. Consider the real housing needs of the city. These are unquestionably in the areas of affordable homes and rented property close to existing spines of public transport. The City Council’s own officers conceded that developing the Gosforth sites (there are two either side of the Reserve) would require considerable road improvement without hazarding a forecast of impacts flowing from these. Developing post industrial sites, expanding satellite communities and public transport are obvious ways to absorb increased population. But then, these do not promise the kind of profits erecting aspirational homes sold as ‘village living’ can rake in for developers.

  4. The question we should be asking is whether it is necessary to use greenfield land at all for future housing growth, let alone areas designated for Nature Reserve? Or, can future growth be accommodated in the existing boundary of the built up areas?

    The answer is that it could, only if planning for the Tyne and Wear area as a whole were better coordinated and integrated. What is happening instead is a rather unhealthy competition between neighbouring councils over the allocation of ‘prime sites’ for housing and in particular what is known as ‘executive housing’.

    The reason for this is partly due to the abolition of the Regional Strategy for the North East whose mandate was to look beyond the boundaries of the small administrative areas and steer development towards more sustainable locations by linking places of work to places of residence through better public transports.

    To fill the coordination gap left by the abolition of the Regional Strategy the local authorities should urgently make use of the powers given to them under the Localism Act 2011 to work together more effectively and fulfill their ‘duty to cooperate’. If they prioritise complementarity over competition they’ll be able to find more sustainable and less environmentally damaging sites for future development even if these happen to be outside their own formal jurisdiction. After all, such horizontal cooperation is the hallmark of good governance.

    Simin Davoudi
    Professor of Environmental Policy and Planning &
    NIReS Theme Coordinator (Justice and Governance)
    School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape
    Newcastle University

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