Community leaders have formed a new fighting force in a bid to block controversial housing plans.
An appeal is set to be heard later this year into plans by Barratt David Wilson Homes North East and Tees Valley Housing to build 396 houses on the edge of Stobhill.
As previously reported in the Herald, the application was opposed by Northumberland County Council, but as it was not determined within the statutory time-frame the applicants lodged an appeal.
A public inquiry is expected to take place at Morpeth Town Hall in July when an inspector will hear the arguments and report back to Secretary of State Eric Pickles for the final decision.
The county council intends to defend the appeal, and now a Hepscott and Morpeth Together group has been formed to act as another formal party.
The group, which is made up of Hepscott Parish Council, Morpeth Town Council and the Morpeth Action Group, has been granted Rule 6 status, meaning it can put forward arguments against the development, examine any evidence presented and raise questions.
It is the same arrangement that the South Morpeth Coalition (SMC) used to defend recent appeals by Bellway Homes to build 196 homes at Loansdean.
The group will be led by Morpeth Mayor Joan Tebbutt, who was part of the SMC team, Hepscott Parish Chairman Philip Ashmore, and Secretary of the Morpeth Action Group and Stobhill town councillor Alison Byard. The team also has the support of county councillors Ian Lindley and Glen Sanderson.
Opposition to the plans focuses on traffic and road safety, the character and appearance of the countryside, school places and flood risk.
A total of 445 objectors signed a petition against the application and 522 letters of objection were submitted, with only one in support.
Morpeth Town Council’s Finance and General Purposes Committee agreed unanimously that the authority should take part in the appeal.
Chairman David Parker warned there are financial risks, such as the potential for costs to be awarded and a chance that legal advice may be sought, but he said both were unlikely.
Coun Andrew Tebbutt said: “I think it is very important that the town council joins with the action group and Hepscott Parish Council to fight this application. We know what the implications are if it is granted.”
Coun Les Cassie added: “I feel very strongly that this is something Morpeth Town Council should support and fight in any way possible. If there are some financial costs that is what we are paid for.”
The council has agreed a limit of £2,000 for material costs, with all expenses to be shared with Hepscott proportionate to the number of electors in each area.
The inquiry is due to begin on Tuesday, July 22.
For more information, or to donate funds for the action group, contact Alison Byard on 01670 515391, or email firstname.lastname@example.org