A CAMPAIGN has been launched for a parcel of land to be declared a nature reserve, saving it from any future housing development.

Framwellgate Moor and Newton Hall county councillor Mark Wilkes said Caterhouse Pit, near Pity Me, had been treated as a reserve by residents for decades and should be officially registered as such with Natural England.

A petition has been launched calling for protected status for the site and the creation of a wildlife and recreational corridor.

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Coun Wilkes claimed Durham County Council wanted to sell of the land.

“The council must have hearts of stone and eyes made of dollar signs if they think this land is surplus to requirements.

“It is a community asset with significant environmental value and it is appalling that they would even contemplate its sale.

“This land must not fall into developers’ hands.”

Stuart Timmiss, the council’s head of planning and assets, said it was consulting on declaring the land surplus to requirements, but this would allow the authority to ensure its appropriate management in future.

“The council is aware of this area of land its ecological value as well as its importance to local residents," he said.

“Our consultation document on the master planning for the possible housing area, part of the County Durham Plan, clearly states that the area should be retained as well as enhanced.

“No decision has been made on the future of this land but we would like to assure residents the council has no intentions of letting this important nature site be developed.

“At this stage we are consulting on declaring this land surplus as this will allow us to have discussions in ensuring its future is managed in the most appropriate and effective way.”

Coun Wilkes said it should not be deemed surplus to requirements, rather it should be protected as an official nature reserve and the only acceptable option was for the council to withdraw the site from potential sale.