Hebburn stables owner claims business being 'crushed' in land row with Metro and Gateshead Council
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Graeme Lamb, who runs the Quarry Park Stables near Hebburn, has slammed officials for refusing to let him graze his horses on a plot opposite his business after contractors working on a major Metro upgrade moved onto his site.
Engineers from Buckingham Group have taken over a section of the Wardley Lane land that Mr Lamb rented from South Tyneside Council while they carry out a £100million dualling of the nearby Metro lines between Pelaw and Bede, which is due to start on September 12 and will result in the entire South Shields branch of the network being out of action for three months.
Fearful for the future of his business and the welfare of his horses without sufficient land, the 61-year-old has pleaded with Gateshead Council to let him rent an unused 28-acre plot opposite on a temporary basis, having previously used it for grazing until 2009, but has been refused permission on conservation grounds.
Mr Lamb said he has already been forced to let staff go from the stables after his income dropped and now relies on volunteer help, having once had 125 horses and up to 20 staff at the business’ peak.
He said: “I don’t want financial help, I just want to be able to use this land opposite until the work on the Metro is done and the contractors are off the site, which I have been told could be two or three years.
“The council has told me that this land is not suitable for horses, but I know that it is – I used it for years previously.
"They should be supporting small businesses like us, instead they are running my business into the ground.”
Mr Lamb opened the stables in 1987 and previously ran a riding school, but says he now faces a battle to survive.
He added: “I have not asked for a penny off the council, the only money I have ever had from them was the Government support grants during Covid.
“It feels like the council is using this opportunity to crush my business and get me out.”
He added: “For a caring local authority and a body like Nexus to turn their backs on a local business which has been built up for many years is sad. There is obviously a need for the business or we would not have survived this long.”
Metro operator Nexus said it hoped to have its contractors off the land by spring 2023, though Mr Lamb believes it would take another couple of years before it has recovered sufficiently to graze horses there again.
A Gateshead Council spokesperson said: “Mr Lamb has made contact with Gateshead Council regarding leasing an area of land near to his stables while works to Metro Flow are completed.
"The land in question forms part of the nature conservation site (Wardley Manor Local Wildlife Site) and is located within a strategic Wildlife Corridor. Gateshead Council actively manages this area for its botanical, invertebrate and ground nesting bird interest; the field is one of only a few sites in east Gateshead to support breeding skylarks.
“The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (as amended) places a duty on public bodies to have regard to the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity. Grazing with horses on this land, as proposed by Mr Lamb, is considered to be incompatible with the Council’s conservation priorities for the field and the wider Wardley Manor Country Park site.
“Following the recent completion of fencing repair works, the field will again be grazed this autumn/winter by a mix of rare breed sheep and cattle.”