The Duke of Northumberland is facing a second “peasant’s revolt” over plans to build over a much-loved “wildlife haven” in a Northumberland town.
Residents of the town of Amble have launched a campaign of resistance against proposals to build an access road through the green space.
Ralph Percy, the 12th Duke of Northumberland and a friend of Prince Charles, is already facing a revolt over proposals to build new housing on beloved allotments in Isleworth, West London.
Allotment holders, who have been growing vegetables on the site since 1917, are trying to buy the plot to permanently block development, i revealed last month.
Now he is facing a backlash over his plans for land known as “the Braid” – a former landfill site which has been publicly accessible green space since the 70s.
Most of the land is designated as a “village green” and is popular with local residents and dog walkers. Residents say it is “teeming” with wildlife including owls, stoats, herons, and hedgehogs.
The Duke, who has an estimated family fortune of around £400m, wants to build a housing development of 48 supported living apartments and 45 residential apartments on an adjacent brownfield site.
The family company, Northumberland Estates, owns a strip of land running through the Braid and is proposing to build an access road for the “lifetime neighbourhood” through the green space. An additional temporary road will also be constructed under the plans, to carry lorries to and from the site during the construction phase.
“The access road will cross the grassland north of the Gut and material will be dug from this area for fill on the main development site, resulting in loss of some species-poor grassland,” the planning application reads.
Northumberland Estates says it has support from the local community for its plans, which it says will “have very little impact on the Braid”.
But some residents fear the road will bring noise and light pollution, scare wildlife away, and reduce access for dog walkers and local residents.
“I’m quite shocked, to tell you the truth, that it could even be on the cards,” local resident Jackie Turpin told i. “How dare he,” said Ms Turpin. “How dare he build a road across it, just because he owns the land.”
Ms Turpin said she feels an affinity with the allotment holders of Isleworth. “In both instances, the Duke is trying to take away the use of land which, for decades, has been integral to the mental health and well-being of the local communities,” she said.
Mr Percy inherited his dukedom alongside large swathes of land across Northumberland in 1995. The estate includes ownership of nearby Alnwick Castle and Syon House in London, as well as commercial property holdings.
A local campaign group, Save Our Braid, has launched to raise awareness of the duke’s plans, handing out leaflets to visitors and displaying posters around the village. More than 100 objections to the planning application have been lodged.
Natural England has requested more information on the development’s impact on local wildlife and ecology.
Amble resident Terry Barton uses the Braid every day to walk his dogs. He told i he fears the Braid would be vulnerable to further development if the plans to build the road are approved. “It will be eroded and eroded until there is nothing left,” he said.
It is not the first time the Braid has been threatened with development. In 2011 Northumberland Estates and Tesco won permission to build a supermarket on the brownfield site, with an access road running through the Braid. But the plans were dropped in 2015.
Colin Barnes, planning director at Northumberland Estates, said the proposed road would be “much less intrusive” than the road that would have been built for the supermarket development.
“This is not a case of building over local green space,” he told i. “Most of the green space will be totally unaffected and landscaping measures around the road as well as on the development site will improve biodiversity. The Braid will be preserved for the enjoyment of local people and visitors.”
“We fully understand the desire of local people to protect their environment and are committed to engaging constructively throughout the whole planning process,” he added. “The ecology impact report for the project makes clear there will be biodiversity gain and habitat improvement because of the proposals.”