Major Pont bids given thumbs up by council committee

Ponteland residents turned out on force when the county councils strategic planning committee carried out a site visit on Monday.
Ponteland residents turned out on force when the county councils strategic planning committee carried out a site visit on Monday.
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Hundreds of new homes in Ponteland are a step closer after Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee approved controversial applications this afternoon.

A majority of members of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee voted in favour.

The outline proposals were 400 new homes on land west of Cheviot View by Banks Property (seven committee members were in favour and three were against), a Dissington Garden Village on land north and west of Darras Hall and new primary and secondary schools, a leisure centre and library on the existing leisure centre site by the county council (nine members were in favour of this and two voted against).

The garden village bid by Lugano Dissington Estate Limited also includes a set of strategic flood alleviation measures and the demolition of a small number of buildings. Seven members were in favour of this application and two were against.

For all three proposals, the committee is minded to approve them as they will now be referred to the National Planning Casework Unit, which will either confirm the council’s decisions or pass them to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to make a decision.

Ponteland North county councillor Richard Dodd is a member of the committee. He had to leave the room before the garden village vote as he declared a prejudicial interest, but he was allowed to comment on the plans as a ward member.

He said: “It’s not just about saying you will put a relief road in, it’s about the impact on Ponteland’s infrastructure.

“For example, I sometimes have to wait three weeks for an appointment at a GP surgery and 2,000 more homes will make it even more difficult.

“What you are going to end up with is not La La Land, it’s Lugano Land.”

He added that if all the housing developments earmarked for the Ponteland area get built, its number of properties will almost double in size.

Head of planning services at the council, Mark Ketley, said garden villages are a separate process to the housing allocations in the council’s core strategy and they are a Government initiative with an objective of accelerating a range of new housing developments on individual sites that will in turn help economic growth.

The planning officers’ report outlines why the Dissington site was chosen.

It says: ‘Dissington Estate is considered to provide an ideal location for a new garden village.

‘With direct access to the A696, it benefits from strategic road connections to Newcastle International Airport and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, whilst also retaining a distinct and desirable location within the Northumberland countryside.’

Coun Lesley Noble, speaking on behalf of Ponteland Town Council, said: “This application fails to meet the garden village criteria on many levels, including the fact that the new homes would be on green belt land and a lack of community support.”

Ponteland resident John Blundell, who spoke on the housing and schools and leisure plans, said: “There is no evidence at all of any special circumstances to delete green belt for councillors to approve 400 houses at West Clickemin Farm.

“As this also has a cumulative green belt deletion with the other concurrent applications, to approve this application is inappropriate piecemeal planning.”

Justin Hancock on behalf of Banks said the site has been identified in the county council’s core strategy documents as being suitable for new housing and the scheme would provide linked access to the proposed new school and leisure centre, a sustainable drainage system and highways improvements.

He added: “The proposals are a crucial part of the jigsaw for the future of Ponteland, particularly its housing, education and leisure provision.”

In response to a question by a member of the committee, Mr Ketley said that the exact figure is still being negotiated, but if the two schemes were built, Banks Property would provide a contribution in the region of £5million to £5.5million to the schools and leisure centre project.

Coun Dodd said: “It seems that these plans are being pushed through for no apparent reason.”

Coun Paul Kelly, chairman of the strategic planning committee, said: “It makes sense to me that it would be better to have a development to round out the existing settlement boundary than going outside the settlement boundary.”

Ponteland East and Stannington county councillor Eileen Armstrong said there were various issues that have not been addressed in the schools and leisure application, including measures to deal with flooding and dealing with the extra traffic, and there was no need to use green belt land for part of this development.

She added: “This application is premature and poorly constructed.”

Officers at the meeting said that measures would be put in place to deal with surface water from the site and manage flood risk and the proposed development would include two site access points on the B6323, Callerton Lane, and exact details on internal arrangements would be sought through planning condition and at the reserved matters stage.

In addition, the planning officers’ report states: ‘Given that the harm to the openness of the green belt would be limited and that the proposal would not result in a significant net increase in built development overall on what is already provided on the application site and the immediately adjacent high school site, it is considered that the openness of the green belt would be preserved and that the proposed development overall would not represent inappropriate development in the green belt.’

Committee member Coun Scott Dickinson said for all three applications that he would welcome the National Planning Casework Unit taking a look at them and expressing a view as this would help matters when it comes to the applications for full planning permission (reserved matters).

Coun Noble said all of the bids should be considered as part of the county council’s core strategy process, so determining them now was ‘premature’.