Tyne & Wear

Hazlerigg Red squirrel supporters oppose homes plan

Red squirrel Image copyright EPA
Image caption There are fears that the red squirrel population could be harmed by the development

Wildlife campaigners are opposing plans for 460 new homes near Newcastle amid fears they could harm neighbouring red squirrels.

More than 80 people attended Save Newcastle Wildlife's protest at the Havannah Nature Reserve in Hazlerigg to oppose the Banks Group's plans for a new estate across the road.

Campaigners said the homes would mean more pets attacking the squirrels.

Banks' surveyors suggested several schemes to minimise any impact.

Image copyright Save Newcastle Wildlife
Image caption More than 60 people attended the protest meeting

A spokesman for Save Newcastle Wildlife said: "Such a high density development is likely to attract grey squirrels to the area, as many people feed grey squirrels in their gardens, threatening the existing red population and increasing the likelihood of predation from domestic pets.

"If approved, this development will see a steep incline in disturbance from human activity within the nature reserve."

Amec Foster Wheeler carried out a survey of the squirrels for Banks.

Their report concluded that the squirrels already suffer some disturbance from visitors to the nature reserve and, while acknowledging nearby homes could mean more people going to the site, extra disturbance could be mitigated by footpaths keeping people away from the squirrels' habitats.

The report also said there would be no "direct impact" on the squirrels but there could be "indirect effects" such as the squirrels going to the houses for food.

The surveyors suggested planting hedgerows suitable for red squirrels to forage in closer to the reserve to negate the need for them to hunt further afield for food.

About 290 people have written to the council to object to the plan while 29 have written in support.

More than 6,500 people have signed an online petition opposing the development.

The plans are being considered by Newcastle City Council but no date has been given for a decision.

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