EXTRA protection has been suggested for local heritage sites to safeguard them from development.
The heritage group of the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan says it is vital that heritage is protected to preserve the character of Morpeth and surrounding villages.
Suggestions have been made to expand the Morpeth Conservation Area, set up one in Mitford and carry out character assessments in Hebron, Hepscott and Pegswood.
The Morpeth extension could take in Hill Brow, Pottery Bank, Dawson Place, Howard Terrace, Dacre Street, Manchester Street, Matheson’s Gardens, Abbey Terrace, Abbey View, Auburn Place, High Stanners Green, Castle Wood, Carlisle Park and the castle, motte and bailey.
There could also be an assessment of changes made to buildings within the existing Conservation Area to identify likely threats to other buildings and put protection in place.
A shop front design guide could also be produced.
The group says that natural heritage is equally important and housing development should be kept well clear of important woodland and historic green spaces.
Members say settlement boundaries are important and urban sprawl should not be allowed, while the green gateways to the town and villages are assets to be preserved.
The heritage group is also keen to preserve historic views, such as that of Morpeth Castle from the Chantry Footbridge and Wansbeck Street, which could be obliterated by insensitive new development in Castle Square.
A visual appraisal could be carried out in settlements to establish a list of important vistas. However, sites should also be considered where new development or regeneration could be acceptable.
The group says a number of heritage buildings are suffering from neglect and consideration should be given to a statutory listing to afford greater protection.
A local list of valued buildings could also be made, which would have to be taken into account in planning decisions, and investigations could be made to see if funding is available to improve access to those already on the Heritage at Risk register, which may help to secure their long-term future.
There are proposals to identify street clutter and consider how it can be removed, reduced or repositioned, and the adoption of a good quality palette of street furniture is suggested for Morpeth and Pegswood.
Local design reviews have been proposed to ensure proposed development is appropriate and the group has said that potential additional resources should be explored to ensure robust planning enforcement.
The report suggests that historic green spaces, communal areas, yards and alleyways should be identified and protected, while green spaces and allotments should also be safeguarded.
The group has also considered the impact of traffic on the historic environment and says a radical alternative traffic and parking system could be of benefit.
It proposes increasing pedestrian zones and making existing routes more attractive to encourage people to walk.
The group acknowledges that heritage tourism can deliver economic growth, but says it must be managed.
A permanent heritage centre has been suggested to protect, promote and celebrate social history.
Group Chairman and Hepscott parish councillor David Cowans said: “The heritage group had representation from a wide area. We managed to look at quite a lot of issues and there was a lot of work from everybody.
“Morpeth and all of the villages have a depth of history and it is important to keep the character, heritage and green surroundings. Growth is inevitable and has to be planned for, but extreme growth is inappropriate and we have got to be careful that we think about design, appropriate buildings in appropriate settings and the character of the place.”
l Re-define boundaries of Morpeth Conservation Area.
l Develop a list of unprotected buildings that are valued locally and consider ways to protect them.
l Protect green spaces and historic yards and alleyways.
l Consider whether a radical alternative to Morpeth’s traffic and parking system could benefit the historic centre.
l Carry out a visual appraisal of key vistas that should be protected.
l Set up local design reviews to assess applications.
l Consider where regeneration would be beneficial to heritage.
l Consider ways to reduce street clutter impact.
l Identify areas where development would not be permitted.
l Ensure development outside settlement boundaries is not permitted.
l Resist threats to green approaches to settlements.
l Create a permanent heritage centre.