A PUBLIC inquiry will take place next week over plans to build more than 350 executive homes on land near a nature reserve.
Bellway Homes want to construct the 366 houses at Whitehouse Farm, in West Moor, North Tyneside.
The site is close to the Gosforth Park nature reserve, which is designated as a site of special scientific interest.
The proposals have sparked hundreds of objections from residents and wildlife campaigners concerned about the loss of wildlife habitats and open space, as well as potential traffic congestion.
Earlier this year, more than 1,000 objections were sent to North Tyneside Council and nearly 100 people, from groups including the West Moor Residents’ Association, Save Gosforth Wildlife Campaign and Natural History Society of Northumbria, held a protest march to make their voices heard.
At a planning meeting in April, councillors rejected the scheme – going against officers’ recommendation for approval.
Bellway later appealed against the council’s decision.
Now a public inquiry will be held to settle the issue.
The hearing, to be led by a Government inspector, will start at the White Swan Centre, Citadel East, Killingworth, on Tuesday, at 10am.
Nick Price, representing the West Moor Residents’ Association, said: “We are objecting against the plans because of the effect it will have on biodiversity as the site is so close to Gosforth Park.
“But it will also be a loss of recreational land for a number of communities including West Moor, Killingworth, Burradon, Camperdown and the surrounding areas.
“People use it for walking, jogging, cycling, horse riding, bird watching and also as an educational space for children.
“It is a treasured piece of land which should be preserved.”
James Littlewood, from the Natural History Society of Northumbria, added: “The development site is a designated wildlife corridor that links the Gosforth Park nature reserve, Killingworth Lake and the Rising Sun Country Park.
“We are concerned that this scheme will destroy that corridor and result in a net loss of biodiversity.
“More than 1,000 people objected to these proposals which shows the strength of opinion.
“We would encourage as many people to attend the planning inquiry so our views can be made clear to the inspector.”
Bellway’s corporate affairs manager Julian Kenyon said the firm did not wish to comment at this stage.
However, the company has previously said it believed the proposals met all the requirements in relation to biodiversity, ecological and transport issues, and addressed the need for new homes in the region.
It also said the development would result in hundreds of new jobs during construction.