Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Hanging on

February is the month that paces up and down like an expectant father. Spring has not arrived; it puts in fleeting hints on the edges of days only now showing signs of lengthening, albeit, very slowly and some days hardly any movement by the clock. Winter hangs on. It snaps back on days of wind, sleet and rain. "I'm not finished with you yet." We may see more snow.

A portrait then of the Battlefield on top of the Lower Ouseburn here. (off site link)

I began by snapping the slower progress of the new independent cinema, the Star and Shadow's replacement on Warwick Street. A faithful band of volunteers and a small grant are beginning to make a difference. The opening  date – never a fixed objective – has had to retreat. Maybe later this year the lights will go on and the doors open. I hope so.

Around the fringes of the Battlefield more student housing has gone up. More rapidly to consume the speculative money on offer while the going is good and the students are still rolling in to the universities. It  could have been worse; it could also have been a lot more interesting.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Droit du seigneur

Article on the B.B.C. about the Nunsmoor Allotments (deceased). Photograph above shows happier times. (Hat Tip: Greening Wingrove.)

The (unaccountable) Freemen have been given carte blanche by the ever compliant City Council (partners in the Great Leazes Park Scandal together with John Hall's United Sporting Club) to do what they want with the bulldozed allotments. After the 'dozers departed the field glinted with broken glass. I seriously doubt the top soil being spread now will prevent injury to grazing cattle if that is what is planned.

Allotments at Leazes Park and next to Fenham Hall Drive have been removed previously. What do the Freemen have in mind? Who knows. They don't say nor can they be compelled to say and the Council isn't asking in any case.

"The Freemen, which has grazing rights on the land, has not commented, but Newcastle Council said it could do what it "deemed fit" with the land."

Meanwhile an upperty serf objects!

"A tradition established in the 13th Century to allow Freemen to graze cows has now become so irrelevant in the 21st century that there needs to be a rethink."

Something Feudal still about this town ...

Friday, January 12, 2018

No Harm in Trying

Save Newcastle Wildlife ©  2018 Re-printed by kind permission.
Petition update

Urgent Action Required

Save Newcastle Wildlife
Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom

12 Jan 2018 — Newcastle City Council today voted 10:1 in favour of plans for 1,200 houses adjacent to Havannah Nature Reserve.

Banks, Newcastle International Airport and Save Newcastle Wildlife spoke against the plans, which contravene local and national planning policy and will see inappropriate development in the Green Belt.

More here

Save Newcastle Wildlife website here

Anton Deque adds:

Planning permission was always going to be granted. But defeat is no shame if more people can be recruited to the cause. The if is because like most conservation groups S.N.W. needs to shift the axis of attack against all such developments away from the formal arena of planning appeals that are rigged in favour of developers towards a more popular kinds of action close to where people live and build as broad a base of supporters of open space and wildlife as possible against the day when the tide will turn in nature conservation's favour. Contrariwise perhaps to a nature conservation outlook, we should also develop an alternative house building strategy, one based on pressing need not greed.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Write a Letter to Sajid ...

Re-posted from Save Newcastle Wildlife © 2018. Re-printed by kind permission.

 Red Squirrel. England's last urban population is under threat. Image © S.N.W. 2018

"Last month we wrote to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, asking him to call in the planning application for 1,200 houses adjacent to Havannah Nature Reserve.

We are still awaiting a response.

In the meantime, we are urging people to contact the Secretary of State, requesting he calls in the application for his own determination.

We have put together a template letter (below), which can be sent to sajid.javid@communities.gsi.gov.uk with an open copy to npcu@communities.gsi.gov.uk

Please add your own words and remember to include your name.

The more we highlight the illegalities of the proposals to central government, the greater the likelihood of getting the plans overturned.

It is important to act quickly, as the application is due to be considered by Newcastle City Council on Friday 12th January."


Dear Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP,

Re: Newcastle City Council – Planning Application 2017/0666/01/OUT Newcastle Great Park

I am writing to you in your capacity as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to request call-in of the above major planning application, which conflicts with national policy on Green Belts, as set out in Section 9 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Section 38 (6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act (2004) requires planning applications to be determined in accordance with the local development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

This application contravenes Newcastle and Gateshead Core Strategy and Urban Core Plan and the Master Plan for development in Newcastle Great Park. There are no material considerations to outweigh the development plan allocation and the clear harm caused by the proposals. Furthermore, there are no very special circumstances to justify inappropriate development in the Green Belt, and the proposals would result in substantial harm to the Green Belt and biodiversity.

Newcastle City Council has also misinterpreted Paragraph 74 of the NPPF and the extant development plan policy for open space protection. Such misinterpretation of local and national policy could set a dangerous precedent for the inappropriate change of use of parkland elsewhere, which would prohibit public access to the detriment of local communities.

I therefore request you call in this application for your own determination.

Yours sincerely,


Anton Deque adds:

This won't do more than let the world know there were objections. Jarvid will nod this through – though there may just be a few more sops to the 'conservationists'. I am deeply cynical about attempting to use legislation drawn up with developers in mind to head off concrete. But as someone said to me long ago, 'It keeps them out of the pub' at least for an hour or two.

DO copy and paste this text adding your own words as you wish (but stay polite please!), then sign and send an e-mail  to sajid.javid@communities.gsi.gov.uk if you can.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Green Spokes

We need to talk about the Green Belt .

I am more and more convinced that conservation and amenity groups fighting to halt developments on Newcastle’s rapidly shrinking Green Belt cannot succeed in halting this onslaught. Partly because of changes to legislation but mostly to do with a now largely unregulated industry driven by profit alone and not at all by meeting housing need. Housing has become an investment class. As long as there are investors looking for a return there is going to be a profit driver. Inevitably, since this means buying assets that have a promise of increasing in value to give short term income, the sites are going to be on greenfield where a ‘buyer’s premium’ can be factored in. The result is creating ‘country living’ fantasies eating up the Green Belt.

But what is, or was, the Green Belt? Created post World War Two, these were created to provide healthier ‘lungs’ around tightly packed conurbations; terraced housing built in the 19th century with  scant facilities or amenities with the secondary notion that access to countryside was in itself a valuable health and social good in the foundation of the then new Welfare State (1). Today, that thinking seems a long gone form of social engineering before package holidays and budget airlines.

What to do? Up against companies with lots of money, boxes of matches and effectively a free pass in planning permissions what do small and hard up conservation and community groups do?

Lots. For one, local groups can swing council elections. On a slightly larger scale, they can question M.P.’s and create pressure on votes. Organised protest should start at your opponents weak spot. Votes. Make sure local and constituency politicians know they are being held to account. Most politicians, even the small fry become addicted to the status and sense of power election gives to them. Threaten that and they will be all ears.

But one cannot, looking at the issue, nature in our towns and cities, hope that preserving what we have is the be all and end all. A fresh concept is required.

I have a notion of developing nature in urban spaces rather than protecting what is for the most part rye grass and barbed wire fencing; indeed, as many have pointed out, brownfield sites can frequently be much more interesting for their unplanned and eclectic mixtures of self-invited species. More and more of our wildlife that can has moved into the suburbs, particularly the mature suburbs.

This theme – of identifying and cherishing 'Green Spokes’ to counter the loss of Green Belt, will be the subject of forthcoming blogs.

Meanwhile a Very Happy New Year to my few readers (and thanks!).

(1) William Beveridge and others who conceived of the idea of a universal system of welfare were themselves keen ramblers.