We have seen the same story play out time and time again in the North East, as developers buy up our scant remaining green space and build, build, build absent consideration for the environmental impact of their actions. Normally, such developments are difficult to dispute: the benefits of housing overruling the needs of any particular field, copse or wasteland area. However, what happens when a development directly threatens a designated Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI)? The answer is simple: you act. You object.

Persimmon Homes have recently submitted a new, slightly revised, application to build 217 homes on the land opposite Gosforth Park Nature Reserve in Newcastle. In doing so, threatening to damage one of the city’s most famed and cherished wildlife sites and a designated SSSI, listed due to its important wetland and deadwood habitats.

Since the time of the first proposal, Persimmon has commissioned an ecological report into the implications of the plan. This concluded that the proposed development will have no detrimental impact on the status of the SSSI. The report focusing on the immediate area of development and not adequately addressing the indirect threats posed to the neighbouring reserve through proximity to human dwellings.

The Natural History Society of Northumbria (NHSN) who have managed Gosforth Park since 1929 have rightfully objected to the development on the following grounds:

  1. The proposed development is contrary to North Tyneside Council’s adopted Local Plan which designates the site for employment use.
  2. The current application does not provide suitable access to public green space. Increased trespass onto the nature reserve and surrounding private land, particularly from dog walkers, will disturb biodiversity. Protected species, such as otter, bittern, badger, and red squirrel, will be threatened, and vulnerable habitats degraded.
  3. Residential properties will bring cats and dogs to the site. Predation of birds and small mammals in the SSSI will be detrimental. During initial discussions Persimmon suggested that a covenant is applied prohibiting cat ownership, however they have no way of checking or enforcing this, making it meaningless. The proposed mitigation for cat predation will be completely ineffective at preventing cat ownership which will result in a negative impact on wildlife in the SSSI.
  4. The development does not comply with the approved policy. A detrimental effect to the SSSI is contrary to the Council’s policies to protect biodiversity (DM5 and DM6).
  5. The proposed development poses a clear threat to strategic wildlife corridors.

Each of these factors alone should be enough for North Tyneside Council to throw out the application by Persimmon. Together, however, they paint a highly negative picture: highlighting the potential for a stark, cumulative impact on the SSSI and showing the proposed development to be directly at odds with the Councils own commitments to safeguard biodiversity and strategic wildlife corridors.

The value of Gosforth Park Nature Reserve to those, like me, who visit it regularly, goes far beyond its designation as an SSSI for important deadwood and wetland habitats. The reserve is home to many legally protected species set to be impacted by the plan – Red Squirrel, Badger and Otter and is of great importance to birds. Among these, Red-listed species such as Willow Tit. It is also one of a select few sites in the entire North East England boasting a regular winter population of Bittern. All of these species and many more will undoubtedly be impacted should the development proceed.

There will be ample opportunity for those disheartened by the continuous erosion of Newcastle’s green space sites to get involved in the protection of Gosforth Park Nature Reserve. For now, however, please consider lodging a formal objection here.

It’s time to say no to Persimmon.

Written by James Common

Naturalist and nature writer from North-East England, forever learning. Common By Nature is maintained as an outlet for opinion and personal musings associated with the natural world, and as a journal detailing my exploits in the great outdoors. Enjoy!

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