Concerns raised over loss of woodland at Sunderland's new £500million Riverside development

A dog walker has raised concerns over the clearance of woodland as part of the city’s new £500million Riverside development.

Tuesday, 22nd February 2022, 4:55 am

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Retired celebrity hairdresser Neville Ramsay has walked his dogs in the Galley’s Gill area of the riverside for the past forty years, where he’s regularly seen a host of fauna and wildlife, including foxes, badgers, hedgehogs, rabbits, sparrowhawks and more.

For the past decade, he’s used the site’s pathways more, walking pets Miss Dolly, Jasper and Eddie twice a day, but the site has recently been cleared of some of its trees as part of the major Riverside development, a mix of offices, leisure and housing, as well as a new pedestrian bridge, which is transforming the city.

Neville says he’s all for progress, but that more should be done to protect the natural habitat.

Environmental concerns have been raised about the new Riverside development

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"This is the last remaining natural woodland in the city centre, and it’s heartbreaking seeing it being destroyed,” he said.

Parts of the path have now been closed to the public as the foundations are prepared for the new bridge, which will link the south side of the river to Sheepfolds, which is also undergoing major investment.

Neville said: “A lot of people have stopped coming down to this area now, as it’s not safe for the dogs and I’ve spoken to many dog walkers and joggers who are concerned by the tree felling. I appreciate the need for progress and new housing, but can we not work alongside nature, instead of destroying it.”

As part of the city centre changes, ambitious plans were recently unveiled to bring new wildflowers and woodland to the city.

Neville Ramsay sits with his dogs Jasper, Eddie and Miss Dolly at an area of the South side River Wear that has undergone a level of tree felling. Picture by Frank Reid

City council planners at Sunderland City Council have tasked a team of woodland management experts with improving biodiversity and retaining and protecting existing high quality trees along the city’s riverside.

Spanning 13.7 hectares and a water space of 5.3 hectares, the project will be the first stage of establishing Riverside Park, an area of green space, woodland and nature walks at the heart of the Riverside area.

Neville said: "I understand new trees will be planted as part of the development, but we won’t see the benefit of those for 50, 60 years. Some of the trees down here are hundreds of years old.”

Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Graeme Miller, said: “Working closely with both public and private partners, and listening closely to what residents tell us, there are major development and regeneration works underway at Galleys Gill and Farringdon Row.

A new pedestrian bridge will link the two sides of the river

"These preparation, remediation and landscaping works are part of the wider Riverside Sunderland development that is helping transform Sunderland into a 21st century city.

"Riverside Park at Galleys Gill is having a range of environmental updates and improvements making it a much more enjoyable and accessible part of our city.”

The council have also explained that Galley’s Gill is in poor condition and clearance works will ultimately make it more attractive. They also state that vegetation clearance is scheduled to take place over the next two months outside of bird nesting season to minimise disturbance on bird life.

The initial works have cleared trees deemed to be dangerous or invasive and they say selective thinning will help higher quality trees reach full maturity whilst creating a more diverse ground flora.

Neville Ramsay is concerned by the loss of natural habitat

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A area of the South side of River Wear that has undergone a level of tree felling. Picture by Ian McClelland.
The clearance of the site has started
How Riverside Park could look
Trees have been thinned and cleared to make way for the bridge foundations
A area of the South side of River Wear that has undergone a level of tree felling. Picture by Ian McClelland.