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Newcastle upon Tyne Liberal Democrats

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Gosforth Racecourse development - promised public benefits

November 22, 2014 10:11 AM
By Parklands Lib Dem councillors

The committee report on the 2nd application on the Gosforth racecourse development programme 2014/1457/01/DET , which is now publically available on the Newcastle City Council website, outlines the following (taken from paragraphs 151 to 155 of the Landscape Section);

The planning submission highlights that the proposal includes significant public benefits to mitigate the impact of the new buildings, particularly in the northern walled garden, on the character and green belt status of the site. From a landscape point of view, the key elements of this are improved public access and a site wide woodland and vegetation management plan. Similarly the submitted mitigation plan highlights 8 principle aims. These are the retention and enhancement of key landscape features; new native tree, shrub and hedgerow planting; reducing the impact of the car on the core of the site; integrating the walled garden scheme into the surrounding landscape; addressing existing gaps in the edge landscaping; enhancing landscape character, nature conservation and cultural heritage; reducing visual impacts of the development, and conserving and creating an attractive environment for local people and for wildlife.

One of the weaknesses of Gosforth Park at present is that although public access is tolerated it does not appear to be welcomed. At present there are a number of paths but these are discontinuous and in places in poor condition. For example at The Steading pedestrians have to exit onto Sandy Lane which is not a pleasant environment. Likewise at the NW corner the path has been (unsuccessfully) blocked off at the western end, and there is presently no (official) access south of the main drive.

Crucially the proposed mitigation plan indicates an extensive pedestrian, cycle and horse riding network which could form the main purpose for these recreational visits. There is a comprehensive network of improved and robustly waymarked paths and cycleways proposed offering various alternative routes around the northern and eastern parts of the site. This includes improved routes through woodland (where access is presently causing widespread disturbance in some areas due to the absence of a clear route); a new public route (using mainly existing tracks) through the former scout area, including a link to the cycleway which runs alongside the A189 by the eastern end of the mile straight; a link path running south of the Steading; formalisation and improvement of access routes, including a loop around the fish pond. Other areas will have public access discouraged to enhance wildlife value, and these include most of the woodlands around the walled gardens and south-western drive; the woodland areas east of Total Football, and the whole area south of the racetrack. These proposals are greatly welcomed from a landscape point of view, which, if implemented well as part of a long term strategy, could bring significant public benefit and also provide improvements for the racecourse themselves (for example legitimate public access in the former scout area could help police the unauthorised and antisocial activities which presently occur in this area).

There are also significant proposed planting belts to provide visual screening and amenity benefits to weaker parts of the site perimeter, particularly the NW corner (where the road realignment changed the boundary), the Sandy Lane boundary east of The Steading, and the eastern end of the mile straight. Subject to further detailing in due course these are also greatly welcomed.

The plan also includes area by area management proposals covering woodland, water features, grassland etc. The woodland management shows significant variation, reflecting the current variability of the woodland cover. Although largely following the original parkland layout it is evident that many areas have been significantly altered, with some significant areas having been clear felled and replanted sometime in the mid-20th century, some areas with scots pine plantation, others with mixed but overly dense broadleaf woodland. These areas are to be significantly thinned (up to 60% over the 10 year period) with the aim of producing sustainable predominantly broadleafed woodland cover reflecting the historic character of the estate. This is very welcome.

The benefits of the Estate Management Plan as outlined above, including heritage works involving repair/retention of the walled gardens and restoration of the listed ice house, will be secured by a S106 legal agreement. The agreement will include timescales for delivery of the works.

If you wish to make a comment on the scheme, this can be done through the Newcastle City Council website