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CABE Space campaign leaves Geordies fuming

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CABE Space has sparked controversy in Newcastle this week following the nomination of two muchloved open spaces as 'wasted space' in the design watchdog's latest campaign.

The city council, the Freemen of Newcastle and local groups have reacted with fury to the suggestion that both Jesmond Dene and the Town Moor should be redeveloped.

CABE has publicised the nomination of the sites as part of its competition to find England's 'worst waste of space'.

A spokesman for the council attacked the suggestion that either should be re-landscaped or developed as housing. 'It is very rare for any city to have moorland in the middle of a city for everyone to revel in, ' she said. 'Generations of people have enjoyed the tranquillity of the Town Moor site.

'And as for Jesmond Dene, we are astonished that CABE could consider this a waste of space, ' the spokesman added. 'It is genuinely one of the most popular city-centre parks in Europe.'

And the council has won the support of the organisation that runs the Town Moor, the Freemen of Newcastle. The land is protected by its own act of parliament and will definitely remain as it is, the Freemen said.

RIBA North's chairman John Burns agreed that there was 'no way' either should be fully redeveloped, but stressed the institute's Newcastle-based membership would be pleased the campaign had drawn attention to the spaces.

'I don't think anybody would really describe these parks as a waste of land, but it is good to get people thinking about better ways to utilise them, ' he said. 'The urban fringes of these parks might be improved without ruining the rest of them.

'But we are not at all in favour of destroying these fantastic urban lungs, ' Burns added.

But CABE insisted it was delighted the campaign had courted so much interest. 'We wanted to raise debate and we have always made that very clear, ' a spokeswoman said. 'We have made no decisions about which should go forward yet to the later stages of the competition.

'People have different opinions whether these parks are a waste of space or not, ' she added. 'It seems there are a lot of people that want these parks to remain the way that they are.'

The 'winner' of CABE's Wasted Space campaign, run in conjunction with BBC Radio 4's To d a y programme, will be announced later this month and will receive a CABE Space makeover.

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