A RALLYING call has gone out to residents to show their opposition to a proposed Morpeth housing scheme.
A planning inquiry will be held at Morpeth Town Hall next week to determine whether developer Bellway can build 200 homes on a greenfield site at Loansdean.
The application was initially rejected by Northumberland County Council in February after fierce objection from locals, but last month the Herald reported that the authority was no longer going to defend its decision at the appeal.
The U-turn was made in a closed session of the council’s North Area Planning Committee, apparently after officers warned that the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) gives less weight to local policies that are out of date, such as the Castle Morpeth Local Plan, which the county authority has been using as a basis for decisions in the absence of its own plan.
However, the South Morpeth Coalition residents’ action group and Morpeth Town Council, as well as local members, will continue to fight the plans.
And calls have gone out for residents across the town to add their voices to the protests.
Town and county councillor Andrew Tebbutt said: “This inquiry is so important, it is a key issue. All the planning decisions made in Morpeth over the last ten years have been based on the Castle Morpeth District Local Plan and its saved policies.
“The town settlement boundary is drawn very tightly around the south end of Morpeth by the Local Plan, based on the public inquiry we had in 1998.
“This application tears all that up. Not only does it tear it up as far as this site is concerned, but it fundamentally alters the whole basis of development in Morpeth and is seriously in danger of making future development unsustainable.
“I’m appalled that the county council is not defending the original decision of the planning committee. I think the council should have defended the existing policies against the NPPF.
“It is absolutely essential that people turn up at the inquiry next week because the inspector will want to know what the level of public interest is in this. We need everybody to register their interest at the start and if they want to come back they can.”
Fellow town councillor Dave Herne said: “I think that the people of Loansdean and Morpeth have been badly let down by the decision made by the county council to abandon the fight to protect Morpeth’s green boundary. It is readily apparent that the south of the town is already over-developed and a further proposed 200 houses at Loansdean would add to the congestion misery of Morpeth.”
Coalition chairman David Holden said: “The county council has let us down badly by pulling out of the appeal and deciding to offer no evidence, a decision taken behind closed doors. This leaves the South Morpeth Coalition to fight the battle as the lone main opposition party.
“We believe that brownfield sites should be reclaimed and developed before we sacrifice prime agricultural land, that the town should not sprawl towards Clifton and that the planned Morpeth Northern Bypass will open up more sustainable brownfield sites to the north of the town.”
Bellway argues that the scheme will deliver much-needed affordable housing, which would form half of the properties built.
The inquiry will begin at Morpeth Town Hall on Tuesday, at 10am, and is scheduled to last up to six days.