Green belt development battle steps up a gear

Members of the Ponteland Greenbelt Group come together to start their campaign against the Birney Hill planning application.
Members of the Ponteland Greenbelt Group come together to start their campaign against the Birney Hill planning application.

THE battle lines have been drawn after plans for hundreds of new homes on the Ponteland green belt were made available to the public.

An outline application by Lugano Group for up to 280 properties and other facilities on a site at Birney Hill has now been validated by Northumberland County Council.

The company has revealed that millions of pounds would be made available to a community trust, which would be owned and run by residents, to enhance the social, economic and environmental well-being of the area.

But members of the Ponteland Greenbelt Group are fighting the proposal as they believe there are much more suitable sites for this type of development.

On Sunday, more than 300 supporters gathered in the Memorial Hall car park to pick up 5,000 information packs for distribution to every household in the civil parish, so everyone is aware of what is being planned.

Group chairman Alma Dunigan said: “It was unbelievable to see so many supporters responding to our request for help in hand-delivering these packs. Many of the homes received this information within minutes.

“Ponteland residents are immensely passionate about keeping the green belt intact and see this and other large-scale developments on this designated area as totally unnecessary.

“I have identified 234 available dwellings for sale within a radius of three miles of Ponteland with a maximum price tag of £250,000. If we have this number now, I can’t see the logic in having more.”

Members’ concerns also include a belief that nearby properties will be more likely to flood from the surface water run-off coming from the properties, the extra traffic which would result from an influx of families, the estate would put more pressure on the existing village infrastructure which is already under strain, only a few of the homes would available for social rent so most would be unaffordable to those in need of affordable housing and the economic and other benefits of the agricultural land would be lost forever.

The application includes retirement homes, self-build plots and properties at a discount to market values.

The existing farmstead would be used for new visitor facilities and a small business hub and the site would feature a community woodland nursery and adventure play area.

Funding of between £8million and £10million would be made available to the community trust and Lugano would also commit a further £6million to further the delivery of improvements in relation to schools, education, transport and other benefits.

Planning director Scott Munro said: “Planning Minister Nick Boles has called for the planning process to give local people a ‘future in which beautifully-designed homes with easy access to green space are once again affordable’, and we believe Birney Hill exemplifies this approach.

“We are investing in Birney Hill to bring a superbly-designed, ‘green’ housing scheme to Ponteland. The scheme will also create around 900 job opportunities over the next five to 10 years.

“The creation of the community trust will set the tone for development for decades to come, leading by example as to how to involve the community in the governance of the places in which they want to live. Birney Hill will lead the way in the UK for cost-saving, energy-efficient housing set in a biodiverse landscape.”

The company is organising a series of briefings about its plans from February to April, which will be advertised on the ponte landfutures.co.uk website.

Ponteland Town Council will divide up sections of the application between members to help it to submit a detailed response within the consultation period. The authority is also looking to hold a special full council meeting in the next few weeks to discuss the issue.

Information about the proposal can be viewed on the county council’s website – www.northumber land.gov.uk.

It is hoped that a paper copy will soon be available at the town council’s offices in Meadowfield and Ponteland Library.