MORPETH residents will lead the way in deciding the future development of the town in a trial of new planning rights.
The town has been chosen as a pilot area to use new neighbourhood planning powers introduced in the Localism Act.
The announcement means that the community will be asked to determine where development should go, as well as the type and design that would be acceptable.
It is part of the Government’s localism agenda, which aims to ensure local people have a major say in shaping their area.
The project will be given funding support of £20,000 and will include surveys, public exhibitions and other consultation events, and when the final Morpeth plan is drawn up there will be a referendum for people to say whether it should be adopted.
If it is approved it would then have to be considered as part of any planning decisions by Northumberland County Council.
Morpeth Town Council will lead the project.
Clerk Gillian Turner said: “Morpeth has been accepted as a frontrunner for neighbourhood planning so we are starting to pull all the work together.
“The borough council used to have a Local Plan and now through the Localism Act town and parish councils can draw up their own plans to feed into the county council plans.
“It will include things like where we want housing development to go, the types of housing it should be, the amount of affordable housing needed, where we want to encourage industrial or retail premises and where we want any greenbelt. In the conservation areas it could also include things like the type of signage that should be used.
“It is very much in the hands of the public and the people of Morpeth will play a big part in the consultation to say how they want the area to develop.
“It is not about hindering expansion, it is just about making sure the development goes in the right places.”
Work in developing the plan is expected to take 18 months to two years to complete, with residents involved at every stage.
“The main priority is to find out what people want,” said Ms Turner. “Once the plan is finished it will go out to a referendum so we need to make sure that it does what the people of Morpeth want. It will have a big sway once it is adopted and the county council will have a copy so that it is considered in the planning process.”
Morpeth was chosen as one of 108 communities nationwide to trial the new rights and Cramlington is also in the group.
They join 125 other ‘frontrunner’ communities that have been working up plans and testing the principles of neighbourhood planning before the system comes into play later this year.
Communities Minister Bob Neill said: “There has been enormous interest in neighbourhood planning and the large number of communities jumping at the chance to trial these new powers demonstrates the enthusiasm people have for this local approach to planning.
“For the first time communities will be in the driving seat and allowed to shape the way they want their area to develop instead of having a vision imposed upon them from above.
“Neighbourhood planning encourages people to plan positively for their future and is a real opportunity to deliver the homes and jobs communities need to thrive.”