PLANS are being made to form a new coalition to fight plans for relief roads around Durham.

Among those hoping to join the coalition are campaigners fighting Durham County Council’s plans for a £53m northern relief road, which would pass through Low Newton Nature Reserve, to the east of Newton Hall, as well as areas of ancient woodland.

Save Low Newton was set up to fight the proposals as outlined in the latest version of the County Durham Plan.

Campaigners are angry about the plan to route the road, which has been a long-held ambition for the council, through green belt land including Low Newton Nature Reserve and the ancient woodland of Kepier and Frankland Woods.

The council, which said earlier this month that the road would not go through the reserve, has now confirmed that it will cut across the former railway track, around 200m from its eastern edge, but says it is confident it would not “affect the integrity”of the site.

Luke Hawkins, from Newton Hall, has been gathering support online and is now hoping to offer nature walks to tell people about some of the wildlife found in the area.

The 17-year-old, who goes to Durham Johnston School, and hopes to work in ecology in the future, said: “I’ve been visiting this place for six or seven years and there’s a lot of wildlife here which is reasonably rare. It’s a dynamic place, it’s got the ability to amaze every single day.

“Parts of it look fairly unremarkable but it’s an excellent habitat.

“The problem is it’s so easy to disrupt ecosystems so it’s hard to know what impact something like a road would have.”

He added: “It’s more than just wildlife. Lots and lots of people go there. You can be there and stop and have some space. It feels like an oasis.”

Newton Hall resident Maggie Tallerman, said: “Newton Hall is an estate of about 8,000 people. It needs as much green space as possible, which is accessible to the public, without a big road going through it.

“We know new roads generate new traffic. There’s academic research on that. It will ruin the nature reserve. Any fauna is not going to be safe and it will destroy a habitat.

“A nature reserve with a road through it is a contradiction in terms.”

A northern relief road was first set out in the 1979 County Durham Structure Plan, but has never come to fruition. In 2015, it was described as “not justified, deliverable or environmentally acceptable”in a now-quashed report by an independent planning inspector.

There are now plans to set up a non-political coalition aimed at uniting groups against the relief road.

It is being led by Durham parish councillor and Green party member Jonathan Elmer. He said: “It’s early days but there seems so be quite a lot of interest in it. There are numerous groups opposed to building relief roads about the city and I want to make sure they are speaking together.”

Mike Allum, the council’s spatial policy manager, said: “Consultation on the preferred options for the County Durham Plan, which included proposals for the northern relief road, closed in August and we have recently published the responses we received.

“We are now in the process of considering the feedback received. It is important that we take time to fully analyse the comments made as part of the consultation. We will consider all comments made and these will inform the next stage of the plan.”