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Dene nursery demolition controversy; Accusation that plans for site were 'buried'.

Byline: Rachel Wearmouth? 0191 201 6477 ? rachel.wearmouth@ncjmedia.co.uk

AROW has broken out over the demolition of a nursery as a council announces plans to sell off the land.

Lib Dem members of Newcastle City Council have accused the Labour-led authority of "burying" plans to bulldoze Jesmond Dene Nursery and market the site to the highest bidder.

The consultation document was included in lengthy budget plans put forward by the council in March and city leaders say the proposals for the picturesque part of the city attracted no opposition and, furthermore, the site has now become dangerous.

Coun Hazel Stephenson, portfolio holder for communities, said that due to Government cuts the council can no longer afford to run the nursery and the council will push ahead "immediately" with demolition.

But Lib Dem councillor for East Gosforth Henry Gallagher accused his colleagues of rushing the process and using Government cuts as an excuse.

He said: "There were loads of documents amounting to thousands of pages and web pages and tweets in the budget process. "If it was 'consulted on' then it was well buried. Why not just be open and have a separate process? "If the site is dangerous then obviously something has to be done but the council's own garden staff were using the site up to June. Why is it so dangerous now? "If the buildings contain hazardous materials, why was not a single local resident consulted on the proposed demolition? The Labour administration at the council always blames the Government when it is backed into a corner. "They have been closing swimming pools and libraries while the other authorities around us have not. This looks like another example of them not taking responsibility for their own decisions."

Coun Stephenson said the authority had been transparent from the outset.

She said: "In the light of Government cuts, the council can no longer afford to operate Jesmond Dene Nursery and it was agreed in March to close the facility and sell off the site, following a consultation process which lasted nearly four months.

"The buildings on the site are in very poor condition and could be dangerous if left unattended. Therefore local members in Jesmond and neighbouring wards were advised in June of the council's intention to carry out an asbestos survey and demolish the greenhouses and the depot.

"Our aim was to protect the public, prevent vandalism, make the site secure and save ongoing maintenance and utility costs.

"No comments were received at that time and at a call-in on August 5, a scrutiny committee concluded that the demolition could go ahead immediately."

Our aim was to protect the public, prevent vandalism, make the site secure and save costs

CAPTION(S):

LAND SELL-OFF The City Council says maintaining the nursery is unaffordable

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Author:Rachel Wearmouth? 0191 201 6477 ? rachel.wearmouth@ncjmedia.co.uk
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 15, 2013
Words:460
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