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Woolsington Woods - Greg Clark decides

Spring woodland Spring woodland Colin Adsley

The Secretary of State has decided to support Newcastle Council over the Green Belt development in Woolsington Woods. 

The scheme by Cameron Hall Developments can now go ahead. It aims to refurbish Woolsington Hall as a 5-star boutique hotel, with a parking area for over 200 cars, but also includes an enabling proposal to build 72 executive homes in the woodland, chopping down many ancient trees in the process, and lay out an 18-hole golf course with associated buildings.

Woolsington Woods, like Gosforth Park (facing its own threats), is one of only a few pieces of ancient woodland left within the city boundaries. It is accessible to the public via a public footpath, and appears on the 'Explore woods' list issued by the Woodland Trust. It is a haven for wildlife - like all ancient woodland - and supports badgers and red squirrels (one was observed there just last month by our own acting Chairman, Professor Howard Elcock).

What public benefit would be gained to compensate Newcastle people for the loss of such a valuable resource, one asks? A handful of rich people would have the opportunity to buy into an exclusive community. Visitors to the city would have the choice of a highly expensive alternative to the city's hotels, with a golf course on the doorstep. But the essential need for affordable homes in the city, built on the brownfield sites readily available, would not be advanced at all.

There may be a place for lavish boutique hotels and exclusive sylvan enclaves in this world. But there are too few places of peace and tranquillity for the stressed city-dweller to escape to. We need places like Woolsington Woods to remain as they are -  leafy refuges where we can make contact with the enduring virtues of the natural world and enjoy its restorative power. 

map(7)

Map of the proposed development site, including the threatened woodland which is to the south of Newcastle Airport.

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