Anglers set to net pool fishing rights at Bateswood Local Nature Reserve
CONTROVERSIAL plans to allow angling at a nature reserve are likely to go ahead.
Councillors have recommended that managed fishing should be allowed at Bateswood Local Nature Reserve in Halmerend.
Opponents say angling will disturb birds and other wildlife, and claim illicit fishing at the site already results in littering and anti-social behaviour.
But proposals for a new bridle route are set to be rejected because of health and safety concerns.
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Halmerend Wildlife Trust opposes both fishing at the site and the new bridle path.
The charity claims parties of anglers from as far away as Liverpool already camp at the nature reserve and illegally dump catfish into the pool.
Members also say that the RSPCA was recently called out to the pool to attend a swan which had two feet of fishing line wrapped around its beak.
Trust secretary Mary Turner said: "The lake isn't big enough to support fishing without harming wildlife.
"The lake is the main focal point for many people and the area proposed for fishing takes up the whole of the most accessible side. There is very limited parking and no toilets.
"Volunteers spend a great deal of time at Bateswood, picking up litter – cans, discarded line and weights, bottles, bread wrappers and so on, and this will undoubtedly increase."
A working group at Newcastle Borough Council say illicit fishing cannot be stopped, as neither the police nor the council can patrol the site constantly. They suggest that the only way forward is to allow a responsible fishing club to oversee angling at the pool.
Their report states: "Handing fishing over to a recognised club with a contract to control the site would regularise the situation. Angler numbers would increase, but their presence at night would help to curtail anti-social behaviour.
"Well managed fishing would help to curtail problems with unauthorised fishing and stocking of the pool, camping and damaging wildlife."
But the working group has recommended that calls for a new bridle route be rejected.
Wenslie Naylon, chairman of Newcastle Equestrian Forum, said members were now working on an alternative proposal.
She added: "We knew there was opposition but all we want to do is create a safe route.
"There is lots of room for us all to get along at Bateswood."
But the council's report says: "The bridle route proposals are too close to the main pool and would result in a 'pinch point'
where it would be difficult for horses to pass one another. "It would increase the risk of conflicts arising between other users of the nature reserve."
The findings will be discussed by the council's active and cohesive communities overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday. If approved, the cabinet would consider the recommendations.