Last ditch attempt to secure permission for green belt homes on land next to Gosforth nature reserve would put city red squirrels at risk, a planning inquiry has heard.
Developer Persimmon said on Thursday that a controversial site next to the nature reserve should be put back into a plan for more than 30,000 new homes in Newcastle and Gateshead.
A planning inquiry at Gateshead civic centre was told by the developer that the Salter’s Lane site earmarked for 600 homes should be allowed.
The plan was thrown out by Newcastle Council after widespread opposition in 2011. At the time it was said the site failed on ecological grounds, but Persimmon now say they can meet those concerns by shrinking down their proposals.
Peter Jordan, for Persimmon, said the new side would also see the developer mostly avoid building on flood prone land on the Salter’s Lane site.
“We have acted very responsibly here,” Mr Jordan said. “ Ecologists have undertaken two years of survey work and we have seen the proposals shrink as a result.”
Groups such as the Natural History Society of Northumbria have already told the inspector not to change the plan in favour of Persimmon, partly because the site could flood.
Society director James Littlewood told the planning inquiry yesterday that their own evidence showed the site was one that had to be considered as ecologically sensitive.
Green party member Sandy Irvine reminded the inquiry that some 600 people had turned up to march against the plans, and many more from across the city had signed petitions against the proposed development.
John Urquhart, one of those who helped defeat the original plans, said that among the many concerns had to be the impact of the grey squirrel, which “respects no borders” and would follow the spread of homes in the Salter’s Lane site.
He told planning inspector Martin Pike: “We face a situation in which it is possible for the grey squirrel could come into what is the last city home in the country for the red squirrel and that would be the end for the species there. The grey squirrel would destroy what we have here.”
Newcastle Council officials argued that a considerable part of the site is still in flood risk areas, though these are locations with a lower risk than in the original plans.