A MAYOR has hit back at demonstrators fighting plans to turn a woodland into a housing estate.

Residents living near Longridge Woods in Middlesbrough had known for 25 years that the green space was intended for new homes, said Ray Mallon.

"A lot of people who are demonstrating about the Longridge Woods site do not want houses near to where they live," he said.

"What we are trying to do is build houses on a small green space that has been earmarked for houses for 25 years."

Mr Mallon said he had spoken with leading environmentalist Jonathan Porritt who had agreed that the land should be built on.

"People have been leaving Middlesbrough for a quarter of a century and we have to offer the right balance of housing stock to bring them back," he added.

Mr Mallon said 53 per cent of the properties in the town were in Band A, the cheapest council tax bracket, and therefore other types of accommodation were needed.

He was speaking at a climate change conference hosted by the town which has attracted international speakers including Joan Ruddock MP, climate change minister.

Mr Mallon said that Middlesbrough was an example to other local authorities at the two-day conference with regeneration projects like the Middlehaven site which was striving to become carbon neutral.

For the second morning protesters gathered outside the Middlesbrough Teaching and Learning Centre, angry about plans for the Longridge Woods site and proposals to concrete over a lake in Central Gardens near the mima art gallery were a luxury hotel and offices could be built.

Mr Mallon offered rally organiser Craig Hornby the opportunity to debate the issues on film yesterday morning but Mr Hornby declined as he was going to Longridge Woods where security fencing was being dismantled.