Community joins forces to fight development plan

A COMMUNITY has formally come together to fight to protect Ponteland’s green belt.

More than 100 residents living in streets beside a proposed housing site have met to unite in a battle to protect the land from major new housing developments.

And a Ponteland Green Belt Group made its presence felt at the latest exhibition by Lugano Group, where it revealed plans for between 200 to 300 homes at Birney Hill.

The residents’ meeting was organised by householders on the eastern outskirts of Ponteland who are opposing all development on green belt land, including fields surrounding their homes where Banks Group is proposing to build up to 500 new properties.

One of the organisers, Susan Johnson, of Cheviot View, said: “We were delighted by the response from people in the area. Everyone is very concerned about the proposal for this and other areas around the village. Ponteland is the gateway to rural Northumberland and maintaining the green belt is vital.

“There is no proven need for more housing in Ponteland and developments on this scale would have a major impact on the area. Ponteland is already at saturation point. Traffic is a problem, parking in the village is difficult, the schools are already full and the village simply could not cope with developments of this nature.”

Mrs Johnson said that in a very short space of time the group had collected more than 200 responses to Northumberland County Council’s Local Development Plan Core Strategy document. These had been forwarded to the county with views on future planning.

Fellow resident Lesley Noble said residents have urged the authority not to class Ponteland as Tier One, which would make the area a ‘main focus for future development and regeneration’.

“Ponteland is not a key hub within the county for healthcare, housing, employment and retail which is what mainly defines a Tier One settlement,” she said.

“The vast majority of residents consider that Ponteland clearly meets the county’s criteria to be a Tier Two settlement with development that maintains and strengthens Ponteland as we know it.

“Being listed as a Tier One town could be seen as giving developers the green light to build what they want, where they want and without considering the wishes of the people in the area, the character of the village and its capacity to expand.”

Both Banks and Lugano claim that there are not enough brown field sites in the area to satisfy the county’s requirement for new homes.

Although the new National Planning Policy Framework allows building on the Green Belt in exceptional circumstances, the Ponteland Green Belt Group is concerned that the Government’s recent drive to boost the economy could see large housing estates being approved on the edge of the village and Darras Hall estate.

Its Protection Co-ordinator, John Blundell, said: “Communities are now faced with the loss of green belt through new legislation that is contrary to its original intention of allowing local residents to have their say on these issues because of Government demand for houses.

“This is not a small development of houses here and there, but large changes which cannot be undone.

“Communities must not look back in years to come to regret having done nothing about the loss of green areas and to have at least tried to stop the urbanisation that threatens their quality of life.

“There will always be brown field sites for building, but once a green field site is built upon, it is gone forever.”

The residents’ actions are being supported by their local MP Guy Opperman.

The number of people signing his petition, which calls for no building in the Ponteland Green Belt, is now close to 2,000.