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 with an open copy to

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 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.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

'Speaking Truth to Power'

A cross post with permission from Save Newcastle Wildlife

Thank you to everyone who supported our campaign to Put Nature on the Map at Newcastle Civic Centre on 1st November. 

As a result of our 3,000-strong petition, Newcastle City Council has committed to deliver its green infrastructure strategy, which it promised six years ago.

Following the debate, we have been approached by an independent councillor with an interest in increasing tree cover across the city.

The next opportunity for us to make a tangible difference is in our response to the consultation on the draft Development and Allocations Plan, which sets out where development will take place in Newcastle.

You can access the documents here.

We are working on a detailed submission and we need your help to call for greater clarity on policies to protect and enhance green infrastructure, trees and landscaping, biodiversity and habitats and open space.

The more pressure we put on the council to amend the policies, the more chance we have of securing greater protection for wildlife and green spaces. Responding to the consultation is vitally important.

The deadline for comments is 5pm, Monday 20th November.

Please email with the subject line 'Draft Development and Allocations Plan - Comments on Biodiversity, Green Infrastructure and Open Space'.
Some points to include in your email are:

Policy DM26 - Protecting and Enhancing Green Infrastructure
The policy must be reworded to ensure greater protection for green infrastructure
A green infrastructure strategy must be finalised and integrated in the DAP

New development within 2km of green infrastructure networks and on greenfield sites must secure connectivity for wildlife, through blue- green corridors of trees, shrubs, hedges, wildflower areas, grassland and wetland

Policy DM27 -Trees and Landscaping
The policy must be reworded to ensure greater protection for trees, in particular aged or veteran trees, and ancient woodland

Further detail of tree, shrub and hedgerow provision in relation to development must be provided
Tree Strategy must be given greater weight in planning decisions
Further detail of tree replacement standards must be provided

Policy DM28 - Protecting and Enhancing Biodiversity and Habitats
The policy must be reworded to ensure biodiversity and habitats are better maintained, created and enhanced

Wildlife enhancement corridors must specify allocations of land that are protected to 'buffer and link', provide 'stepping stones'; and 'create or restore' biodiversity
Light spill from development on important species and habitats must be avoided
New development must incorporate wildlife-friendly housing design and construction and habitat enhancement across the wider landscape
Development of previously undeveloped land within 2km of the green infrastructure network and waterways must be subject to specific biodiversity standards

Policy DM29 – Protecting Open Space
The policy must be reworded to ensure greater protection for open space
The amenity green space standard of 1.2 hectares per 1000 population must be maintained, as a minimum optimum standard

More emphasis must be given to protection of parks and recreation grounds
Housing allocations at Hartburn Walk, Kenton Bar and Thornley Road, West Denton should not be permitted as there is already a shortfall in parks and recreation areas at these locations and development would impact wildlife corridors

Please use the above points to guide your comments only. Personalised individual submissions will have more weight.

Parks, Allotments and Nature Reserves in Newcastle

Newcastle City Council has published its Cabinet Report on 'Creating a Charitable Trust to Protect Newcastle's Parks and Allotments'.

The report will be considered at a public meeting on Monday 20th November at 4.30pm in Newcastle Civic Centre.

Anton Deque adds:

This is refreshing from S.N.W.

To be effective efforts to ward off 'worse to come' planning decisions must be aggressive, applying constant pressure. That was somewhat lacking in the early days of the groups existence. Fighting your enemy on grounds of his choosing – especially arguments about the interpretation of legislation easily sidestepped by developers with deep pockets and matches – and going after specific instances of doubletalk and dereliction of stated policies is better. Better still would be to ensure inclusiveness. As Richard Mabey suggested last century*, conservation can too readily become what seems like a specialised game played by specialists on a special pitch, and thereby excluding the 'general public', whomever they are. S.N.W. have got 3,000  signatories to a Petition. Well done! Make that 10,000 and the Council will really sit up.

*The Unofficial Countryside (1973)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Falling Leaves

A final look in 2017 at the piece of green space I have called Battlefield because one time it looked like a battle to protect this precious resource was immanent. In those early years for this blog, the likelihood was some kind of 'development', first of a 1300 car parking space (!), then multi-storey offices followed by apartments and now student halls. Character free developments that have bought no 'vibrant' community in their train. Students shuffle along like weary commuters and Deliveroo couriers come and go morning, noon and night ...

Yet, at least Battlefield the Beautiful remains and so far the dottier schemes have not come to anything. An under hand land grab by the Universities p.l.c. has not happened – yet. The public is still welcome to stroll and enjoy the views over the Tyne Gorge.

Elsewhere the situation of the city sways and swerves between the not so bad and the threat of more of the worst. The Listed (sic) Odeon is a space waiting to be turned into another 'much needed' shopping precinct when the only competitor to Eldon Square, the former Newgate Shopping Centre has also been put out of its misery (not before time).

A photographic essay on Battlefield, where another old friend, a lurching White stroke Grey Poplar, succumbed to high winds, here. (Off site link.)