Town councils set out their green concerns

Concerns have been raised by Morpeth and Ponteland councillors about some of the green belt elements of a major vision for Northumberland.

Dozens of parish and town authorities across have responded to the county council’s draft core strategy consultation, which will set out planning policies up to 2031.

It covers areas such as future growth, housing development, the environment, tourism, leisure, infrastructure and transport.

One of the policies is the extension of the green belt in the Morpeth area, which is warmly welcomed by the town council. However, it objects to the planned inner boundary for the green belt around the Morpeth town section.

In its response, the authority says: “The proposed boundary to the north west of Morpeth fails to restrict urban sprawl and the merging of Morpeth and Fairmoor and identifies a scale of safeguarded land that will give comfort to developers in the medium to long term, whilst compromising the identity of Morpeth as a free-standing rural market town.

“Development at, and adjacent to, Northgate Hospital should be identified as an inset in the green belt.

“With the overall allocation of 1,000 houses for the whole strategic housing site, the draft core strategy implies a provision of about 700 houses for St George’s Hospital Phases Two and Three.

“We suggest that there may be capacity for 200 to 300 more homes on the site beyond the plan period. This would give a total potential housing provision for Morpeth of about 3,100 to 3,200, of which 1,000 to 1,500 would be developed after the plan period if required.

“On this basis, tighter inner green belt boundaries are justified, adding to our argument that the Northgate/Fairmoor sites should be inset in the green belt and the proposed safeguarded sites north and west of Lancaster Park should be designated as green belt.”

The council does add that it is content with and supports the rest of the proposed inner green belt boundary for Morpeth.

Ponteland Town Council disagrees that the area should be classified as a key service centre and any imposed growth should not occur in the green belt.

Its response says: “It is equally important that Ponteland should not extend towards Newcastle as it is that Newcastle should not extend towards Ponteland.

“The suggestion by the county council that the land to the south east of Ponteland is the area of least impact and landscape sensitivity is completely at odds with the perception of the community – the outcome of the Ponteland Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group.

“Ponteland’s schools and leisure facilities do need upgrading, but green belt deletion is not required in order to rebuild these facilities.

“Rebuilding of Prudhoe High School will see the school built on exactly the same site. There is no reason why that can’t happen in Ponteland.

“Why does the whole of this area (around the high and middle schools) need to be deleted from the green belt? Retaining the majority of it in the green belt would allow playing fields and protected open space, but prevent speculative development in the longer term.”