Development plans were never right

Pictured are some of the Ponteland Greenbelt Group team celebrating after Lugano Group's appeal over its Birney Hill application was rejected. Picture by Keith Robertson.
Pictured are some of the Ponteland Greenbelt Group team celebrating after Lugano Group's appeal over its Birney Hill application was rejected. Picture by Keith Robertson.

Since becoming your MP I have been involved in numerous campaigns, from reducing VAT on Air Ambulance fuel to fighting for fairer funding in our schools.

One of those key campaigns has been the preservation of our Greenbelt.

The fundamental fact is that almost no one agreed with the assertion that this site was exceptional enough to justify building on the Greenbelt.

Northumberland is the most beautiful place to live. It is a privilege to be in a part of the world where there is so much nature.

Wherever you are in the constituency, you are never far away from Greenbelt and open space. I, for one, have been keen to preserve this at every stage.

Earlier in July, we took a great step forward in protecting our Greenbelt.

Developers had tabled plans to build 280 homes on prime Greenbelt land on the outskirts of Ponteland.

These plans had caused great unrest to residents across Ponteland and Darras Hall, and to all those who value our Greenbelt.

There were more than 4,310 letters of objection submitted to the county council from concerned local people.

Despite initially being dismissed by the county council, an independent inquiry was launched to determine whether building was appropriate. I gave evidence at the public enquiry and explained why I thought it was important to maintain our Greenbelt.

The area of Greenbelt land between Newcastle and Ponteland is particularly important.

This area stands as a barrier between the two areas; once it starts to go, and we lose the Greenbelt, we would have a problem with the expanding Newcastle city and the built up Greenbelt becoming the classic urban sprawl.

The final decision on the application was made by the Conservative Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Greg Clarke MP, who, I am delighted to say, rejected the appeal to build on our Greenbelt.

The Greenbelt is an important protection against urban sprawl, providing a green lung around towns and cities. Inappropriate development should not be approved in the Greenbelt.

Boundaries should be altered only in exceptional circumstances.

In summing up the decision, the Secretary of State made clear that, in this case: “The very special circumstances necessary to justify... inappropriate development in the Greenbelt do not exist.”

I am immensely proud that the Conservative Secretary of State has taken the decision to reject this appeal. It demonstrates the Conservatives’ clear commitment to protect our Greenbelt.

I have always remained very hopeful that Lugano’s appeal would be thrown out, and for those of us who have battled so long and so hard, we will now take a huge sigh of relief.

There have always been very clear and objective planning grounds on which this application to build on the Ponteland Greenbelt should be rejected.

The fundamental fact is that almost no one agreed with the assertion that this site was exceptional enough to justify building on the Greenbelt.

The county council’s planning committee rejected this application, the Neighbourhood Plan group didn’t identify the site for future use and 4,300 local people objected to this development.

We have all worked tirelessly with local campaigners to make their representations and I am so pleased our arguments have been listened to.

Yet, perhaps the thing I am most proud of, is the fact that, as local campaigners, we have been able to fight off these plans by a multi-million pound developer.

The community in Ponteland and Darras Hall united in a quite extraordinary way.

United not against development, not against housing, but against unnecessary building in the Greenbelt.

It is a victory for local people and our community.

It is a victory for local democracy.