School is going back to nature thanks to housing development

College students and the partners who built the new facilities, including the dipping platform.
College students and the partners who built the new facilities, including the dipping platform.

A wildlife habitat has been reborn thanks to investment generated from a new social housing development.

The eight-acre nature reserve at Seaton Burn College – overgrown and largely inaccessible for 25 years due to lack of funds – has been transformed by the college, social landlord Isos Housing, and partners for all the community to use.

L-R: Michael Farr from Isos, resident Mina Hall, Mayor Norma Redfearn, residents Val and Tom Spitty and Isos chair Jackie Axelby with all the partners who built The Farmstead.

L-R: Michael Farr from Isos, resident Mina Hall, Mayor Norma Redfearn, residents Val and Tom Spitty and Isos chair Jackie Axelby with all the partners who built The Farmstead.

Work saw 20 tonnes of rubbish removed while 200 new trees, hedges and plants were planted, lead by Groundwork NE charity and students from Newcastle College.

New features include a ‘dipping platform’, wooden boardwalks, an outdoor classroom and artwork by Neil Canavan.

BBC Look North weatherman Paul Mooney officially opened the nature reserve, while Mayor Norma Redfearn joined Isos chair Jackie Axelby to open the homes nearby which had led to the funding boost.

The Farmstead development features 20 affordable homes, and was the catalyst for Isos to work with the college.

College deputy principal Dave Cookson has led the regeneration project on the nature reserve, working alongside a large collection of partners with Lea Smith and Lewis Rimington from Isos helping to manage the project.

Mr Cookson said: “When I first brought Lea and Lewis from Isos into the nature reserve, it was a boggy, over grown mess, but they could see the potential, and they trusted my judgement. Now you can see the results.

“The plan is that we will have over 1,000 children here over the next academic year, and we will be open to the community from September too, so local people have somewhere to spend their recreation time.”

Opening The Farmstead, Mrs Axelby said: “This development is a wonderful example of our approach at Isos, that when we design a new scheme, we don’t just see it as housing, but it’s about homes and the community, with the facilities that a community needs.”

Mrs Redfearn added: “We have really good partnerships with Isos, and we know you provide quality accommodation.

“I’ve had my breath taken away by the quality of this scheme – and it’s also because you don’t just provide housing, you give much more.”