Developer unveils latest plans to build hundreds of new homes

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THE latest plans for new housing in Ponteland have been unveiled.

Lugano Group is looking to bring forward a scheme for 200 to 300 homes at Birney Hill, south west of the Darras Hall estate.

The company says there will be green buffer zones between the site and existing housing and it will not constitute a large extension to Darras Hall.

Its planners believe the location will not greatly add to the congestion along the A696 because drivers going to Newcastle will not need to go on the road and the development would not increase the risk of flooding in the area.

They also revealed how they can help with general issues in Ponteland, such as progressing the Merton Way regeneration scheme and improving transport links, to members of the public at exhibitions in the Memorial Hall and Ponteland Leisure Centre.

But many local residents were not impressed and questioned the need for new housing on green land.

Among them was former councillor Irene Brumwell, the final Mayor of Castle Morpeth in 2008/09 before local government reorganisation wound up the borough.

“We’re very concerned about all these potential housing developments. At the moment, we can look out and see fields, animals and nature and we don’t want this spoiled by hundreds of new homes getting in the way,” she said.

“Why can’t these companies look at brownfield sites because there are plenty of places where businesses have closed down that can be used instead? They are choosing the green belt because it’s more profitable.”

Lugano argues that there is not enough brownfield land to accommodate the housing requirements of Northumberland County Council, so some of the new homes will have to be built in the green belt.

Ponteland resident Alan Varley identified the police headquarters and Ponteland Auction Mart as two sites where housing is in the pipeline and they could almost or fully meet the requirements for Ponteland alone.

“There will be an influx of about 3,000 people if this and the Banks proposal (for up to 500 new homes on the Clickemin Farm site) are approved and the infrastructure would simply be unable to cope,” he added.

“It’s not Government policy at the moment to build on the green belt unless there are exceptional circumstances and I don’t see any exceptional circumstances in this case.”

To help reduce the price of some of the homes, Lugano is proposing a Community Land Trust model which removes the land from the process. People would only own the property.

It also enables a committee to be set up that would have a say in who they want to buy a property.

The company believes it can bring expertise and investment to help Ponteland Community Partnership, Ponteland Town Council, Northumberland County Council and the developer ensure that the Merton Way regeneration project is progressed.

It intends to assist with developing frequent and high quality bus services to connect with Newcastle, the airport and Metro – a dial-a-bus scheme is also being considered.

Other areas where members hope to get involved include the improvement of pedestrian facilities, an increase in on-street parking places and more cycle routes.