Plans for new homes to be built just yards from a popular nature reserve have been slammed by wildlife enthusiasts, claiming the scheme could “destroy” the character of the area if given the go-ahead.
Proposals have been submitted to Sunderland City Council to create 96 houses on land west of Mallard Way, close to Rainton Meadows Nature Reserve, in Houghton.
The plan has been filed by Lambert Smith Hampton on behalf of Harworth Estates.
A briefing document claims the new site would also see improved green spaces and road infrastructure.
But Durham Wildlife Trust says it has concerns over potential problems with flooding as well as the effect it will have on wildlife.
Chiefs at Harworth Estates believe the plan is “sustainable”.
In a statement the trust said: “The trust, following discussions with the applicant and careful consideration of the information submitted felt there was no alternative but to object on the following grounds:
“Allocations – the site isn’t allocated for housing in the existing City of Sunderland plan or the plan that is currently being consulted on.
“Ecology – there is inadequate mitigation for the habitat that will be destroyed and for the indirect impacts on the site.
“The trust is particularly concerned about the willow tit population on Rainton Meadows, which could be of national significance.
“Flooding – there is little information presented on how flood risk will be addressed.
“The proposed housing site already floods on an annual basis as do areas of Rainton Meadows, including the access road.
“Landscape – the development will destroy the rural setting and character of the Rainton Meadows nature reserve.
“Durham Wildlife Trust is also concerned that the proposed is not in keeping with the original agreement that established Rainton Meadows as a nature reserve following open cast mining at the site.
“It is also worth noting that City of Sunderland officers have stated that the development will be damaging to the local economy due to impacts on neighbouring businesses.”
A total of 15 comments have been lodged on the council’s planning portal, with the majority objecting to the plans.
Eddie Peat, director for North East at Harworth Group plc, said: “As part of the planning process, we’ve met with the wildlife trust a number of times to attempt to address their concerns and to make the most of the public open space that the proposed new development will provide.
“We’re a very experienced residential land developer and through this application have tried to sensitively handle bringing forward up to 96 homes in this particular location.
“We believe what we’ve put forward is sustainable and we look forward to it being considered.”