Backlash begins against Ponteland garden village proposals

Some of the Ponteland Greenbelt Group team celebrating after Lugano Group's appeal over its Birney Hill application was rejected.

Some of the Ponteland Greenbelt Group team celebrating after Lugano Group's appeal over its Birney Hill application was rejected.

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Politicians have already come out in opposition to proposals for a new garden village in Northumberland, which could see around 1,800 homes built near Ponteland.

As reported by the Herald on Friday, a report to Northumberland County Council’s cabinet tomorrow recommends members agree to the submission of an Expression of Interest to central government for support in developing proposals for land owned by The Dissington Estate, north of Darras Hall.

It follows a report published by the Government earlier this year, entitled Locally Led Garden Villages, Town and Cities, seeking expressions of interest from local authorities to create new, sustainable and locally-led garden villages.

Since publication of the report, the council has been approached by The Dissington Estate, which is owned by the Lugano Group, which has an interest in developing a garden village in Northumberland and is working with the council to prepare submission of an Expression of Interest.

The company has speculatively developed proposals for a garden village in this location of approximately 1,800 dwellings with associated local services, facilities and infrastructure provision.

However, today, all four Ponteland councillors – Veronica Jones, Eileen Armstrong, Richard Dodd and Peter Jackson – have revealed that they are united in opposing the scheme, adding that they knew nothing of the proposals until they were unveiled on Friday.

Speaking for all four, Coun Peter Jackson said: “It is a matter of extreme concern that elected councillors are being kept in the dark about issues which will fundamentally affect their communities. This is increasingly happening not just in Ponteland but all over Northumberland.

“We find it difficult to understand how it is that the county council can actively promote even more house-building in Northumberland as it is obvious that the general infrastructure of our towns is being overwhelmed.”

“Taken together with existing plans, the Ponteland community will be suffering from the pressure of an extra 3,350 houses within the next few years. This pressure of development is certainly not sustainable on several levels and it will have serious effects upon the local community.

“The public will soon realise the negative impacts of this plan upon the everyday lives of residents of Ponteland and the surrounding area. Not only will there be a huge increase in local traffic with the subsequent increases in congestion (even allowing for a relief road of some kind), but all other basis services will be overwhelmed such as the schools and local health/GP services. Local car parks are full now so what is going to happen there?

“This so-called garden village scheme will simply become just another dormitory for commuters, offering very little towards a sustainable community with a lack of public transport and basic local amenities to sustain these thousands of additional residents.”

They also draw parallels with the Lugano Group’s bid for up to 280 homes and other facilities on a site at Birney Hill to the south of the Darras Hall estate, on the other side of Ponteland, which was rejected on appeal last year, while questioning whether these proposals would even meet the Government’s criteria.

Meanwhile, MP for Hexham, Guy Opperman said: “The county council’s plans to support the building of 1,800 new houses on the outskirts of Ponteland have understandably come as a real shock to local residents.

“This is the first indication we have had that the county council plans to support this proposal, despite the fact we have been through months, indeed years, of consultation regarding housing plans and the green belt. Given the huge impact on the green belt and the pressure on public services, I simply could not support these proposals.”

A Labour group spokesman said: “Once again local Tories are silent on their own Government’s role in council policies. Garden Villages are a scheme dreamed up by a Conservative government, to meet a Conservative manifesto pledge to build one million homes yet local Tories are trying to scupper their own Government’s policy.

“Guy Opperman and Peter Jackson profess the need to build affordable homes yet they’re campaigning against a scheme which will build 500 affordable homes. Not content with campaigning against more than £100million investment in education and leisure in Ponteland and Morpeth, now they’re campaigning to stop their own Government’s policy. Residents would rightly view that as hypocritical and opportunist.”

For their part, Coun Allan Hepple, cabinet member for economic growth, said that ‘garden villages form an important part of our drive to ensure the future prosperity of Northumberland and continued economic growth’, while Richard Robson, chairman of The Dissington Estate, said the garden village would be close enough to Ponteland/Darras Hall to support existing shops and businesses, yet far enough away to be physically separate and a distinct village in its own right.