People power forces county to publish land report

PEOPLE demanding their right to information have persuaded Northumberland County Council to issue an important planning report.

The research for a Local Development Framework (LDF), which shapes land use for years, will be published on Monday.

Its release has been brought forward because so many people have been clamouring for the document, including making Freedom of Information requests, Planning and Environment Committee members were told last week.

The report covers strategic flood risk assessment, landscape character assessment, a land use impact study, renewable energy, an employment land review and a town centre and retail study.

The flood risk section examines all risks, including rivers, the sea, land, groundwater and sewers, and provides “flood risk confidence maps”.

On land use, the sensitivity of 26 settlements to expansion is explored. It also looks at the proposed extension of the green belt around Morpeth and assesses the effect countywide of mineral workings, landfill and renewable energy.

The energy study concludes that wind power has by far the greatest theoretical potential for renewable electricity generation by the year 2020 and biomass the greatest potential for heat production.

The employment land study suggests the supply is out of balance with current and future needs, in spite of the large amount of committed sites. The study presents seven scenarios for the amount needed up to 2030, ranging from 293 hectares to 506 hectares, with a recommendation that 293 to 317 hectares are sought.

It also finds most of the sites, including the best ones, are in south east Northumberland, there is a shortage in the west and that the north has an adequate supply, but local problems of quality and deliverability.

Future cuts in public money might be addressed by having mixed-use developments.

On shopping, the study finds considerable loss of spending to places outside the county. It proposes a hierarchy of seven town centres, five district centres and 16 local centres.

The town centres are Berwick, Alnwick, Morpeth, Ashington, Cramlington, Blyth and Hexham. The district centres are Amble, Bedlington, Ponteland, Prudhoe and Haltwhistle.

Studies are being published for information, not as consultation documents.