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THIRTEEN principles have been drawn up to help determine future housing development.

The Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan housing group has drafted the list as a suggested basis for policy as the area could be expected to deliver between 1,250 and 1,950 new homes over the next 20 years.

The vast majority of development would be in and around Morpeth and Pegswood is also keen to take a share, but there would be very limited scope for housing in the villages of Hebron, Hepscott and Mitford.

Key factors that could affect development include the delivery of the Morpeth Northern Bypass, which would open up both brownfield and greenfield sites, flood risk, infrastructure such as drainage, sewage, health services and transport, traffic congestion, connectivity and the availability of school places.

The principles state that:

l Morpeth will be a main town for growth.

l Pegswood should have further development to enhance community life and strengthen its position as local service centre.

l The integrity of Hebron, Hepscott and Mitford should be retained to avoid coalescing with Morpeth.

l Development should not damage the environment, heritage and special character of Morpeth or expand inappropriately beyond current boundaries.

l There should be a range of property types and styles, including affordable housing and homes for younger and older people.

l Development should contribute to well-designed, high quality neighbourhoods and maintain local distinctiveness.

l Housing development must be linked to sufficient capacity and investment in transport, employment and services, including schools, roads and sewerage.

l Advantage should be taken of opportunities arising from the Morpeth Northern Bypass.

l Previously developed land must be prioritised where viable in preference to greenfield sites.

l Mixed development of housing and commercial should be considered to promote the local economy and enhance sustainability.

l Effective use should be made of existing housing stock and vacant properties.

l High standards of energy efficiency should be encouraged.

l Building must be avoided in flood risk areas.

The number of new homes required over the Plan period will be decided by Northumberland County Council, but it is expected that the figure will be around 1,500, with 30 per cent classed as affordable housing.

The group has found that there is limited brownfield sites available so greenfield development will be inevitable. Work is ongoing to assess the suitability of specific sites, which will be presented for consultation at a later stage of the Plan, but one of the key issues is the capacity of the sewerage network.

Concerns have also been raised about any increase of traffic over Telford Bridge and the group says there appears to be much more potential to concentrate development on sites to the north of Morpeth, such as St George’s or Northgate, than south of the town.

Pegswood could absorb some of the housing growth for Morpeth, particularly to the north of the village, but there are sewage capacity issues.

Hebron, Hepscott and Mitford are not considered sustainable locations for housing growth and should retain tight settlement boundaries. They are also likely to be washed over by a new Green Belt designation.

Group Chairman David Parker said: “A very committed, hard-working group gave an enormous amount of time to the task and members have been very conscientious in exploring all the possibilities, getting the appropriate information in order that they could submit a really excellent technical report so that residents will have all the information when they come to look at the Issues and Options as they are now doing.

“Clearly, housing is an issue which many people feel strongly about. There are various locations in the town which could be built on, it is a question of getting the right place.”

Options

l Deliver around 1,500 new homes over 20 years in the best locations through detailed appraisal of sites, taking account of the guiding principles.

l Concentrate development to the north of Morpeth, particularly at St George’s Hospital and Northgate and taking opportunities presented by the Morpeth Northern Bypass.

l Measure sites against sustainability factors, such as distance from services and public transport links.

l Work to 30 per cent affordable housing target through mixed tenure development, community land trusts and developer schemes.

l Propose percentage specification for type, size and tenure of homes, or a range of housing to be determined scheme by scheme.

l Promote specialist accommodation for older people.

l Ensure best design, energy efficiency, landscaping, layout, accessibility and public spaces are incorporated in planning approvals.