Kate AshbrookBritain’s former Robocop is under fire for failing to protect woodland in one of the North-East’s most urbanised areas.

Middlesbrough mayor Ray Mallon, famed for his zero-tolerance to crime when he was in charge of the town’s police, faced criticism from the Open Spaces Society (OSS) after refusing to stop the go-ahead for the sale of Longridge Wood at Marton, on the southern edge of the town.

Open Spaces Society general secretary Kate Ashbrook, right

The OSS says it would be a tragedy if the wood were lost to the community. The society’s general secretary Kate Ashbrook said: “This three-acre woodland has for many years been of great importance to local people, who enjoy it for quiet recreation.

“The wood is rich in wildlife, and it is a vital lung in an urban area which is gravely deficient in public open space and especially in woodland. 

“Longridge Wood provides a place where children can, in safety, discover the joys of the outdoors and learn about nature.”

Middlesbrough Council says it will press ahead with the sale of the land, where a developer plans to build 80 homes. The OSS had asked the directly elected mayor to intervene. It says the Middlesbrough Green Spaces Strategy states that the area has the smallest number of trees in the North East and that there is a deficiency of woodland. That makes Longridge Wood even more precious, it claims.

The council says it’s asking that the developer to provide £115,000 for a new classroom at a local school, £100,000 towards a pedestrian crossing, £80,000 for improvements to the local Marton West Beck Valley Nature Reserve and £30,000 for improvements to play facilities.