Victory for trees over shops and gym in Shiremoor

Plans to open four new shops and a gym in Shiremoor have been knocked back in a bid to save the area’s trees and wildlife.

Developer Northumberland Estates had wanted to expand a major new retail development next to the Holystone Roundabout, but has seen the idea rejected by councillors.

Members of North Tyneside Council’s planning committee voted against the plans by a narrow margin of five to four on Tuesday morning.

Concerns were raised that the project – the second phase of a development that already includes an Aldi and a Costa Coffee, and is next to a Toby Carvery – will result in an “unacceptable” loss of woodland, including a number of mature trees.

The verdict defied the recommendation of council planning officers, who had said that the plans would “provide a modern development that would complement the existing facilities at Northumberland Park”.

Coun Muriel Green said: “I am concerned about the biodiversity. I have seen too many estates in the borough where there have been lots of promises made about replacing parts of the vegetation with various flora and trees, and it either has not happened or has happened 20 years later or has not been successful.”

She added: “When you come off the A19 there is quite a wealth of vegetation, mature trees that cannot be replaced.

“I am not against the scheme, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think enough consideration has been given to the biodiversity and the vegetation surrounding it.”

Labour colleague Coun Jim Allan had led the objections, saying that he feared that concerns raised by the council’s biodiversity officer were being “pushed to the side”.

The officer had said: “The woodland that is currently retained on site forms boundary planting that is important for biodiversity but also as a visual amenity. This should be protected and enhanced with additional boundary planting (trees and scrub) and not impacted upon further to enable views to buildings.”

Coun Sandra Graham added that  “market forces” will determine the success of the development, not whether it is blocked from sight by trees, and that a pledge to replace mature trees with shrubs was a “poor move”.

Committee vice-chair, Coun David McMeekan, was one of four councillors who voted in support of the plan and said that it would be “an important addition to a very vibrant local centre”.

The applicant had said in its planning application: “The development provides many opportunities for the area, including an enhanced range of shopping provision, new full and part time employment opportunities, plus those created within the construction industry.

“The proposals will help reduce the need for local residents to travel further afield and the site is well positioned to serve both existing and planned new residential populations.”

Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporting Service