COUNCIL: Working hard to defend Plan

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I was astonished and extremely disappointed to read the letter from Robert Pollard in which he states that: “Morpeth Town Council has made little comment on the way Northumberland County Council has treated the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan”, (Morpeth Herald, February 2).

Morpeth Town Council has been extremely critical of the county council. Much of the town council’s criticism and challenges to the county council and its leadership have been reported in the Herald.

Robert could also find evidence of our activity if he were to go online and read the minutes of numerous meetings, all of which are on public record.

The fact that the county council has chosen, repeatedly, to either ignore us or to refuse to engage with us is not something that can be blamed on the town council.

As Chairman of the town council’s Planning and Transport Committee I took a lead in ensuring that the town council made its position clear to county.

I wrote detailed critiques of the development briefs prepared by county in relation to the County Hall and the Riverside sites, highlighting where they failed to adequately represent, or even contradicted, the Neighbourhood Plan. The town council agreed to officially request that the two documents were withdrawn. That debate was recorded in the Herald. There was no response and the briefs were not withdrawn.

I worked with the Chamber of Trade so that the town council and chamber jointly wrote to Grant Davey, Leader of the county council, asking him to attend a public meeting in Morpeth to explain his vision for the town. This, too, was recorded in the Herald. Coun Davey refused the invitation.

As Vice Chairman of the Morpeth Forum on county’s assets in Morpeth, I have heavily criticised the county leadership for repeatedly refusing to attend the forum. It leaves it to county officers, who cannot influence what the leadership does.

The town council was so frustrated at being ignored at the forum that it debated whether to withdraw from it. While some wanted to cease attending, I persuaded councillors to remain in the forum as I believe in continued dialogue. We decided to continue, but to request that the leadership send a cabinet member to forum meetings. That debate was also reported in the Herald. So far we have received no reply.

The town council took full part in the public inquiry in relation to the Stobhill/Barratts Appeal. We also submitted rigorous objections to the Mitford Estates and County Hall site planning applications, and took legal advice about the former.

Some town councillors have turned up to support residents demonstrating in relation to the cutting down of trees outside County Hall before planning permission has been granted.

I am fully involved with the South Morpeth Coalition and have submitted my own objections to the retail and residential applications for the County Hall site.

So to accuse the town council of making little comment is totally unjustified. We have been working hard on behalf of the town in both producing and defending the Neighbourhood Plan.

Coun Joan Tebbutt

The KylinsMorpeth