HUNDREDS of angry and concerned residents across Newcastle packed a council meeting last night to protest at proposals to build more than 20,000 new homes across the city.
People carrying banners lobbied councillors as they arrived, and later cheered when it was agreed to extend the consultation period by a further three months.
Councillors heard an impassioned plea to save wildlife at Gosforth Park where a 600-home development could threaten a top nature reserve.
They were also told by one speaker that the action plan was “deeply flawed” and the Lets Talk initiative – the council initiative to consult with the public about policy – was a “PR disaster”.
Newcastle City Council along with Gateshead Council want to build thousands of houses as part of a long-term strategy to “create jobs and homes” – called the One Core Strategy.
But residents around Gosforth Park are anxious to stop them in their tracks, because many of the new homes could be built on green belt land close to a nature reserve.
James Littlewood of the Natural History Society of Northumbria told the council meeting: “Wildlife knows no boundaries and nature reserves are not zoos where animals are conveniently locked up. The fields would be destroyed providing essential foraging habitat for wildlife that lives in Gosforth Nature Reserve. Without this habitat some of this wildlife would be lost forever.”
It was a message some councillors supported as they nodded and clapped.
Another speaker, Jason Smith, the leader of a group called Newcastle First, urged councillors to “stop talking and start listening”, and not “force massive life changing plans” on communities.
He added: “There is growing public anger on what is being inflicted on people.”
Residents came from Lemington, Walbottle and Throckley to voice their concerns.
They fear that similar plans to build thousands of homes would lead to an “ urban sprawl”.
Eileen Liddane has lived at Lemington Rise for 25 years. She said: “I am disappointed . There will not be enough green space if this goes ahead. There would be an increase in traffic and pollution”.
Another resident, 75-year-old Harry Harrington, warned that several bridleways in the area could be destroyed.
At Throckley residents have formed a pressure group called STOP which will be officially launched this month to fight the plans.
But Newcastle councillor 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 be prioritised”.
Residents now have an extra three months to prepare a battle plan following the extension.