RESIDENTS have seized the chance to have their say on controversial Morpeth housing plans.
Planning Inspector Philip Major is conducting an inquiry into appeals by Bellway Homes to build up to 200 houses on land south of The Chip at Loansdean.
The hearing at Morpeth Town Hall will include a number of presentations by professionals, but on Thursday local residents were given the opportunity to put forward their views.
Flood risk was a common concern.
Morpeth Flood Action Group member and Head Flood Warden Tom Smith presented a detailed document, arguing that Bellway’s risk assessment was inadequate.
He said the sewer system serving south west Morpeth is already overloaded and surcharges in several areas, with a mix of surface and foul water, and argued that while the Environment Agency is seeking to ensure the sewerage system proposed for the development does not cause pollution, this cannot be guaranteed if it connects to the existing overloaded system.
He said that the proposed Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS) of three water storage ponds would provide nowhere near the capacity required, particularly as an existing tile drainage system on the field, which would be destroyed, has not been considered.
Mr Smith said: “The storage requirement must be at least 8,484 cubic metres rather than the 1,645 cubic metres proposed in order to safely compensate for loss of existing attenuation provided by lowered water table provided by the tile drainage system, surface flooding and loss of flow to the underground aquifer.”
He added: “There is no description of how the ponds, which are supposed to store floodwater from the development, will not fill prematurely from the Catchburn and overflow resulting in increased flood risk to vulnerable downstream properties. The flood risk assessment submitted is completely inadequate. Downstream flood risk will be unsustainably increased.”
Southgate Wood resident Ken Kirkbride also had concerns about flooding.
He said: “There is a very strong history of flooding from the Catchburn and this development can only enhance these problems.”
Retired headteacher Wendy Stafford, of The Chip, praised the South Morpeth Coalition residents’ group for fighting the plans.
She added: “The people of Bellway don’t live in Morpeth, we do. We care passionately for our community and our town, and as such we should be the senior authority on what is built here, not people who live miles away.
“Bellway is big business and my experience of big business is at the end of the day it is really only interested in the balance sheet, particularly the profit side.
“It has put great emphasis on the fact that it is going to bring work to Morpeth, but when the building stops, the jobs stop. How building a totally unwelcome and inappropriate housing estate outside the settlement boundary can bring more jobs to Morpeth is beyond my comprehension.”
She also raised concerns for wildlife.
Peter McKenna, of Loansdean, said the 2km walking distance to the town centre put forward by Bellway only goes as far as the Telford Bridge and so the distance to many shops and services would be greater.
He argued that the company should have carried out a survey of people living in Loansdean to find out how often they use various modes of transport and why as part of its traffic assessment.
“The vast majority of residents will use the car to travel into Morpeth, particularly as there are no bus lanes into the town centre, so the journey will take the same amount of time,” he added.