Planning a new focus

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BUSINESS leaders have put a new focus on planning matters to make their voices heard on Morpeth’s future development.

The Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade has tasked its Vice Chairman Charles Robinson with heading up its work on planning and car parking in a new streamlined committee structure.

At the group’s recent meeting, Mr Robinson said there would now be a more concerted effort to engage in consultation about development plans for the area, rather than simply reacting to applications as they arise.

“On the planning side our input in the past has to a large extent been reactive,” he said.

“We have reacted to proposals at a planning level in the form of objecting to out-of-town supermarkets that would affect the wellbeing of the town centre, and we have been pretty successful, making telling contributions to the plans by Tesco and Sainsbury, which were rejected.

“However, for us to be more effective as an organisation we must be involved more with proposals that will shape places and affect the town in the future.

“The chamber of trade has a valuable role to play in shaping the future of Morpeth. In a constructive way we must make our voices heard.”

The group will contribute to the development of a Neighbourhood Plan, which is led by Morpeth Town Council, as well as the Local Development Plan consultation carried out by Northumberland County Council.

Mr Robinson said the chamber can also expect further work on car parking and the campaign to get a fair charging system adopted across the county.

“On the car parking side, I have no doubt that we will continue to press the county to make sure that Morpeth gets a fair deal on car parking and car parking charges,” he said.

“It is coming up to four years since this chamber raised the issue of the unfair system in Northumberland and we are no further forward with a more equitable share of car parking charges.

“We have had some success in the last four years. We campaigned strongly against charges on Sundays and bank holidays and we have made a telling contribution to the introduction of the countywide shoppers’ permit so we have made some progress.

“However, it is pretty certain that car parking is going to be on the agenda at future meetings.”

Currently, parking charges are levied in Morpeth, Alnwick, Hexham and Berwick, while towns in the south east of the county have free car parks.