Council goes back to the drawing board as long-term plans spark complaints

PONTELAND Town Council will go back to the drawing board for its long-term future vision after receiving complaints from residents.

A three-stage bypass scheme, the extension of the Tyne and Wear Metro system to Ponteland and moving most or all of the schools to a campus off Rotary Way were among the ideas put forward in the authority’s 53-page Local Plan, which was put together over eight months.

But householders told councillors at a recent event in the Memorial Hall that they should have been involved in drawing up the document, rather than being consulted after it was finished in draft form.

As a result, members decided not to proceed with it and instead look into a neighbourhood community plan.

One of the residents who attended the Memorial Hall session, Muriel Sobo, said: “The credibility of the Local Plan was questioned because the authority had not engaged with the residents during the period of its gestation.

“In fact, there were people at the meeting who have specialised expertise which could have helped the town council in its deliberations, but the councillors’ attitude, oft repeated, is that they were elected to do a job and that is what they are doing. They need to listen more and begin to do what they were elected to do – reflect the views of the electorate.

“The proposed bypass, a subject in Ponteland for more than 50 years, was discussed with many reasons against, not least because it was routed through the flood defences on Eland Lane and across the flood plain and about 50 feet from one speaker’s house.”

Pilot neighbourhood planning areas, which include Morpeth, are being set up to see how new powers under the Localism Act can be used by communities. Residents, businesses and landowners are encouraged to have an input as to where development should go, along with the type and design that would be acceptable.

At a special meeting of the town council, members unanimously agreed to withdraw the Local Plan, although Coun David Butler said that some of its ideas could be useful in helping to draw up the new document.

Ponteland Mayor Peter Cowey said: “We accept that the best way forward is to involve the community in a neighbourhood plan.

“Now we need to investigate the whys and wherefores of this process before making any decisions on how to proceed.”

The authority also agreed its response to the various questions asked in Northumberland County Council’s Issues and Options section of the core strategy.

Among its comments was that the protection of the green belt is essential, but the majority of members said that they were unable to choose one of the settlement criteria laid down by the county council as they believe Ponteland is between tiers one and two.

Tier one locations are described as ‘Key hubs for education, healthcare, housing, employment and retail. Extensive range of services and facilities and good transport links’.

The tier two places are ‘Key service centres to their resident communities and in some cases a wider network of villages and hamlets. They also provide a wide range of services and facilities’.

Coun Robin Ramsay said: “Being in tier two reduces the pressure on us for developments, but we would miss out on the extra support that the county council will give to tier one locations.”