Arguments over inquiry evidence

The lack of housing argument should not apply to an application in the Ponteland green belt because the current figures being used are overinflated, a public inquiry has heard.

When the appeal hearing for Lugano Group’s outline proposal at Birney Hill resumed on Tuesday, John Blundell said that as the core strategy for Northumberland County Council has yet to be completed, national planning policy states that household projections published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) should be used as the starting point.

The department is working on the 2012-based household projections, using Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, and publication is planned for next month.

“I’m here to make sure everyone is aware of what the reality of the situation is,” said Mr Blundell.

“The ONS raw data indicates that the population change for Northumberland is 8,412 up to 2032 and I used estimates as suggested by DCLG to come up with a housing projections for Northumberland.

“The maximum 20-year requirement is 9,579. My figure will be superseded by DCLG2012’s arrival in February, but it will certainly be much lower than what the county council has set out in its draft core strategy (23,520 new homes for the 2011 to 2031 period).

“What it means for Ponteland and Birney Hill is that there are enough already developed sites to alleviate the use of green belt for housing and I hope you (planning inspector John Gray) take this into account.”

Although the reason for refusal saying there was lack of information about dealing with surface water on the site has been withdrawn, Hadrian Court resident Hank Craggs raised a number of flood risk concerns. The rear of his and other residents’ properties abuts onto Birney Hill.

He said: “Technical conjecture and the dismissal of reality pervades the whole of the flood risk assessment by WSP on behalf of Lugano Group. The photographic evidence, made available to WSP, of resident inundation is not a suggestion or anecdotal.

“There has been a disregard of existing flooding issues in the area as shown in the inadequate pond attenuation and reliance on existing drainage at resident boundaries that fails already.

“As a layman, I am extremely concerned that an outline application of this magnitude should get this far in the process with so little specific and detailed planning and factual and tested information submitted by the applicant.”