A DEVELOPER has hit back at critics of Morpeth housing plans, saying there is a need for more homes in the town.
More than 500 people have now signed a petition against a proposal by Barratt Homes North East and Tees Valley Housing to build 396 properties at Stobhill.
Objectors say the scheme would create urban sprawl, increase flood risk, add to congestion and there is a lack of infrastructure to support it.
But now Barratt has drawn up its own battle line, saying the project would bring massive economic benefits, as well as help to meet a huge demand for homes.
The house builder says it would provide 180 jobs in the building industry and supply chain, £4million for Northumberland County Council through the New Homes Bonus and £650,000 a year in council tax receipts.
It estimates that an extra £7million a year would be spent in shops and on services, with around £4million of that spent locally.
Managing Director Mike Roberts said: “We absolutely believe this development would help to meet the undoubted demand for family housing in the town and bring many positive benefits to the area and the local community.
“There is a significant shortage of new homes and a high demand in Morpeth. This has resulted in house prices in the town being an average of 37 per cent higher than across Northumberland as a whole, and 10.7 times higher than the average salary.”
He added: “Our development would make a substantial contribution towards meeting local housing needs by providing the type of homes which are most needed. They would be predominantly two, three and four bedroom homes, with 30 per cent affordable housing.”
The proposed site lies on greenfield land between the A192 and A196, but Mr Roberts dismissed claims that it is unsustainable.
He said: “Unfortunately, for one reason or another, Northumberland has not built enough homes for its population to live in. In the last five years only 3,500 new homes have been built against a minimum need of 4,500.
“The town is identified as an area for growth and a focus for new development within Northumberland as a result of the range of services and facilities that it provides.
“There is no dispute that Morpeth is a focus for growth and that the site is a sustainable location. Two previous inspectors and the former Castle Morpeth Council have confirmed this in reports.
“The site is directly opposite existing housing estates to the north and west and forms a logical extension to the built up area of Morpeth. It is within walking distance of shops, services, facilities and regular public transport connections, including the railway station.”
County councillor for the area Glen Sanderson has called for a public meeting for residents to air their views on the application before it is determined by the planning committee.