Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Flaming June – No, Really!

In Blighty we have been promised a 'barbecue summer' so often it has ceased to be even funny to our usual maudlin sense of humour; global warming was something that happened to other people. This year though is turning out to be a cracker as we say.

My solitary reader will perhaps recall how miffed I was with the construction of the cycleway. especially because so many trees were sawn down to make way for it. I am willing to say I was too easily persuaded that this was an unnecessary intrusion and threat: I had visions of mad cyclists whipping down the new cycle track at speed. Few do I am glad to report. The Missing trees have not as yet been completely replicated in new plantings – several of these were vandalised. That's not the fault of anyone but the vandals. Then something happened.

Council workers turned up one day and laid turfs all along the central reservation that marks the pedestrian side from the cyclists side. Wild flower turf. The results have been madly spectacular for two years in a row. True and couple of places have been trodden down – that could easily have been anticipated in the design stage; people tend to walk in straight lines not where planners wish to direct them. You can see examples all over new estates, etc.

What we have now is yet another argument for a new Public Park. It's well used, mostly well used by considerate people and gives access to green space to families and increasingly students. Why not Lower Ouseburn Park?

Slideshow here. (Off site link.)

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Bridging loan

Building on the Green Belt. What could go wrong? Lots of new homes (that few can afford) and more income for our local councils struggling with Austerity. Must be a good idea.

What about the negatives? Don't ask.

Newcastle has been asked to review its decision to allow a huge development beside the Havannah Reserve. "Has this been thought through?" What is there to think about? These developments make a fortune for their backers. What more is there to say?

Work on widening the Metro bridge on Killingworth Road South Gosforth is delayed again.

This from The Newcastle Chronicle, that's what. I presume the developers are paying for a new bridge that is essential to the massive increase of motor traffic into Hadricks Mill stemming from their money spinning activities? I mean, if you want a pint of milk or a newspaper (old stuff for oldies I know) you will have to hit the road to get them. Surely, Newcastle Council Tax payers are not stumping up for this as they did the infamous Ouseburn barrage?

Details here: link.

Meanwhile Save Newcastle Wildlife is clebrating (rather too early I feel) a 'victory'. But good luck anyway.

Don’t Hem in Havannah

Newcastle City Council has resolved to take the planning application for 1,200 houses adjacent to Havannah Nature Reserve back to committee, following our proposed legal challenge.

This is a rare victory which required a lot of hard work and perseverance.

Officers were clearly concerned by the threat of legal action, otherwise they would not have backed down so quickly.

Even if we had fought and won judicial review, the application would still have gone back to the council for redetermination.

We have been advised the application will not be considered until after 1stJune.

In the meantime, we are encouraging further objections and will be submitting an enforcement complaint regarding landscaping issues in Newcastle Great Park.

A Greener Future for Newcastle?

A member of Save Newcastle Wildlife will be standing in the city council elections.

Rachel Elizabeth Locke is standing as an independent candidate in Castle Ward and will be calling for:
Greater protection for green space and Green Belt, including parks, nature reserves and allotments
Affordable housing on brownfield sites instead of executive homes on green fields
Better walking and cycling routes and an integrated public transport system to encourage people to leave cars at home to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution
A commitment from builders to actively conserve wildlife and biodiversity in all new development
More green infrastructure, such as wildflower areas, living walls, green roofs, trees and hedgerows to mitigate for air pollution, climate change and support wildlife
More bins, recycling facilities and incentives to reduce littering and waste
Commitment from local businesses to reduce waste, particularly single-use plastics

Planning Policy Peril

Local Wildlife Sites, as well as aged and veteran trees outside of woodland, are not protected under revised proposals for the National Planning Policy Framework.

We are encouraging people to respond to the consultation to demand better protection for wildlife sites and veteran trees.

The Wildlife Trusts' ‘Act Swiftly’ campaign provides more detail, while the Woodland Trust is encouraging people to support stronger planning policy for ancient woodland.

You can respond directly to the NPPF consultation here or email your comments to

The deadline is 10th May 2018.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Byker from the back

Shields Road runs up through Byker. According to reports in the local media last year it was voted as 'the worst shopping street in the ..." U.K. or England. I can't say I remember or care. I like it.

Despite the fact that Byker was once a integrated community it was the subject of the kind of social experiment that became very popular among planners in the 60s and 70s, now the Empire had too few natives to expend their energies upon, an experiment that carved a dual carriageway through the centre of the district that ends up accomplishing little, but gave a fashionable architect (who made sure he didn't live there) a chance to win multiple international prizes for his 'Wall' (I presume a cynical play on Hadrian's Wall built alongside 1900 years earlier) and dislocate (de-house) thousands of people from basically sound homes that might easily (and have been) renovated to a modern standard for less money.

So then: Byker.

It intrigues me to wander about and note the incoherence that accident and neglect have brought that planning, detailed and much admired (by sociologists) sociological research could never achieve. A sense of place. The back ways, the unsuspected enclaves and pathways between settled estates with a hedge here and there and lichen covered trees. The back ways of comings and goings, small caf├ęs (caffs) that the smooth operators would shun thankfully. And then, suddenly a glimpse of a near copy of a highland railway line complete with rocky outcrops and fir trees.

Byker photographs here (off site link)

Saturday, March 31, 2018

News Feed

Garden birds: No more scoffing now

Last century someone had an idea to help a membership drive and raise useful funds. The idea was to get people to count birds in their gardens. It wasn't meant to be serious; more a fun way to enage with an audience. It turns out the audience was vast and increasingly this fun piece of public relations took on a new and perhaps deadly serious purpose. Out national bird populations were in steep decline.

Studies of farmland birds were turning into obituaries. Small birds were vanishing. Species that no one had much bothered with since there were so 'ubiquitous' had numbers dropping like stones into a gulf. Suddenly the amateurs with their notebooks and peanut feeders across the realm were promoted like some birdwatching Dad's Army into the front line of British ornithology. Bird counts taken in overwhelmingly urban and suburban gardens were vital. It also turned out to be tens of thousands of all ages and types of people who could also be counted on. No one was patronisingly smiling on granny and grandad's gnomes and bird table any more.

Birds are shifting into the suburbs as never before. Birds that never used bird feeders such as the brightly coloured Goldfinch turn up mob handed and breed increasingly across cities; a pair nested in a street tree outside HMV in Newcastle's teeming Northumberland Street three years ago. The nest was still there recently.

Switching direction very slightly, another fact intrigued me.

There is no more competitive and ruthless business than general and household retail selling on the British High Street. Large companies that get their business wrong go under – fast. It is not sentimental, nothing like Open All Hours. So why does Wilko's Byker sell so much bird food and bird food dispensers?

Typical: Wilko's sellers of quality bird food

Byker's Shield's Road was described by some journalist as possibly the worst shopping street in the country. It has about nine feet by over six feet (in old money) of shelf space devoted to many kinds of bird food and bird feeders, plain and workmanlike to fancy and ornamental. A cashier told me she had no idea there were 'so many kinds of bird food'. Does it sell well? "Oh, yes. Lots."

So why is 'possibly the nation's worse High Street' buying so much bird food? Because they care. In a tough place to live through Austerity 02, people yet have a thought (and cash) to put out bird food in this somewhat benighted and severely under rated inner city district*.

I am more and more persuaded that if protecting 'nature', as the valiant Save Newcastle's Wildlife group are attempting to do, means anything it must include more of this overlooked group, the bird lovers of the inner city. I also believe that the term nature conservation should itself be broadened to include more of the what some of the more serious minded would consider inconsequential to its purpose: The transient nature most of us meet with everyday. The rapidly diminishing Green Belt isn't all of it. Not by a long way.

*Photographic essay on Byker coming soon!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Bubble or froth?

A Fallen Angel? From the article cited below.
It is a scene familiar to anyone who has walked around
Newcastle and Shieldfield in the past few years

Oh, dear! The news about the wave, tidal wave even, of speculative student dwelling construction, financed by off shore investor's and others, is not good.

More here;

The amount of such building in Newcastle in the last few years has been staggering. The need for social housing has not even been glanced at leave alone addressed. Instead, more and more schemes to build aspirational homes, frequently also bought by investor's continues. A salutary lesson in what happens when investment (sic) does just what it fancies.