A North developer is making a fresh bid to get permission for a huge housing development on land next to a popular nature reserve.
Persimmon Homes is to defy both public opposition and Newcastle City Council and call on a planning inspector to let it build 600 homes on green belt land it owns at Salter’s Lane, close to Gosforth Nature Reserve.
Critics say the site is an obvious flood risk, pointing to the 2012 downpour as proof, as well as it being a vital part of Tyneside’s under threat green belt.
Newcastle Council had originally looked at letting developers build on the site despite concerns it would put at risk the nearby nature reserve.
Council leaders faced months of protests in which thousands turned up to march along the site.
The council eventually caved in to pressure and dropped the site from its one core strategy, a joint plan with Gateshead for 30,000 home set to go for its final approval before a Government planning inspector this week.
As that hearing begins, Persimmon have submitted a formal bid to have the site put back into the plan. If successful the firm would be allowed to submit planning permission for the site originally set for 600 homes, although the documents made clear the developer would use only some of the site and allow the rest to be a green belt extension.
The Natural History Society of Northumbria, which was involved in the original protests against developing the site, has now launched its own legal bid to convince the planning inspector that the once defeated plans are unsuitable for new homes.
Top of their list are pictures showing how the fields turned into a makeshift lake in a 2012 downpour, proving, the group says, that the site is a flood risk.
The society adds that the site next to Gosforth Park Nature Reserve, “arguably Newcastle’s most important wildlife site due to its rare and sensitive flora and fauna,” and that the fields in question have for a long time been designated as a Strategic Wildlife Corridor.
Society director James Littlewood said: “This land was flooded in 2012, has subsidence, is a designated wildlife corridor and is next to the city’s most important nature reserve. All the evidence shows that there are more suitable sites for development in Newcastle which is why it was withdrawn from the council’s plan. We are hoping that when the inspector hears the evidence he will agree with the hundreds of people who originally objected.”
In its submission to the inspector Persimmon said that “firmly believe that this site supports the growth agenda” of the city.
The firm adds that without the new development, and the income it would generate for the council, improvements to the local area would otherwise rely overly on a new community building charge set to come in nationally.
Persimmon did not provide a comment.