Community backlash on garden village bid

Brought to you by the Morpeth Herald.
Brought to you by the Morpeth Herald.

Councillors and community groups in Ponteland have declined to engage in public events for the controversial Garden Village scheme.

As reported in last week’s Herald, the next stage of the process for the proposed development on the Dissington Estate began on Sunday, which saw the first public event take place as part of an Enquiry by Design (EbD), which is being run by the Prince’s Foundation.

However, Ponteland Town Council, the four Ponteland county councillors, Ponteland Civic Society, Ponteland Green Belt Group and Ponteland Community Partnership all refused to attend and the Prince’s Foundation has been informed that they ‘cannot support this proposal in any way’.

Reference is made to a number of consultations over recent years on various developments, adding: ‘The common theme running through all of these ‘consultations’ is that the views of Ponteland residents, who have engaged with the process and responded in such significant numbers, have been completely disregarded.’

Ben Bolgar, senior director at the Prince’s Foundation, said: “We are disappointed that members of the Ponteland community have decided not to attend the Enquiry by Design.

“While respecting their right not to participate, it appears they may have misunderstood the process – and incorrectly thought that by attending the design workshops that they would be seen to be supporting a planning application. That is not the case.

“Enquiry by Design is more to do with collaboration than consultation as we like to try to evolve plans, with stakeholders fully involved in understanding the development process.

“We believe it is important that, before major plans are formally consulted on, key local community members have a chance to feed into the design process.

“Through a series of collaborative workshops held over three days, we hope to come up with ideas that will eventually inform a set of plans that will be the subject of a planning application.

“The planning application will then be the subject of full community consultation – where every member of the community will have a chance to say whether they back the proposals or not.

“So you could attend an EbD and contribute to the workshops, while still objecting to any plans that subsequently come forward in a planning application.

“The Prince’s Foundation is a charity established by the Prince of Wales, whose objective is to raise significantly standards of planning and design.

“We are involved in the Dissington Garden Village proposals because we believe that by involving stakeholders at an early stage, we can make sure whatever application comes forward to be consulted on is a high quality one that the community have had a chance to input into.”

Pete Newbigin, a Ponteland resident, added: “I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I’m finding the EbD a really positive and useful process.

“But I have to say it’s very disappointing that people who should be here, people who represent the community, have just decided to boycott a process that has been proven time and time again to be of enormous benefit.”

The second public event of the EbD process takes place on Monday, September 26, from 7pm to 9pm, at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel at Newcastle Airport.