‘We’re not surprised plans were given thumbs up’, say protesters

Ponteland residents turned out in force when the county councils strategic planning committee carried out a site visit before the meeting.
Ponteland residents turned out in force when the county councils strategic planning committee carried out a site visit before the meeting.
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A group of residents say they were not surprised that three major Ponteland planning applications received county approval last week.

The outline proposals include a Dissington Garden Village on land north and west of Darras Hall that would see up to 2,000 dwellings being built and space/facilities for employment, commercial, agricultural and leisure uses and 400 properties on land west of Cheviot View by Banks Property.

Northumberland County Council’s bid for a new leisure centre, library and primary and secondary school on the current leisure centre site and green belt land next to it was also approved.

Its strategic planning committee approved all three by a majority vote. They come in advance of the local authority’s core strategy being independently examined later in the year.

For all three proposals, the committee is minded to approve them as they will now be referred to the National Planning Casework Unit, which will either confirm the council’s decisions or pass them to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to make a decision. The proposed garden village by Lugano Dissington Estate Limited has been the subject of an ‘expression of interest’ to central Government, supported by the local authority.

There were hundreds of objections to each application. Opponents included the Ponteland Greenbelt Group.

Its chairman, Tony Noble, said: “The outcome of this meeting was entirely expected. We knew that this was simply window dressing for a pre-determined decision by the county council.

“The core strategy is flawed and the approach by the council to encourage developers, and to submit its own application, outside of the core strategy process demonstrates a lack of confidence in its approach to excessive housing numbers and in excessive deletion of green belt.

“The strategic planning committee members were provided with three addendum reports containing detailed, complex information and 15 minutes to review and understand the information presented. This approach is unacceptable.

“Not one committee member asked a question relating to the information provided at the very last minute, so the meeting should have been rescheduled to ensure that the planning committee was adequately informed.

“This is not a community that is against development – indeed we welcome proportionate sustainable development.

“Current housing completions and approved planning applications in Ponteland within this plan period are in excess of 630 in a community of 4,873 dwellings. A substantial number of these approved new dwellings will be built on green belt land.

“We know that the county council’s proposed housing numbers are ridiculous, that’s why it is desperate to have the Dissington Garden Village numbers excluded from the housing figure for the county.

“Remember this was declined as a garden village scheme by Government. There is absolutely no written confirmation that this decision is likely to change in the future.

“It’s the massively over-ambitious housing numbers that give the county council the so called ‘justification’ to release green belt.”

The group also claims that during the consultation about the change to a two-tier system of education in Ponteland, the county council said the new schools and leisure scheme would be self-funded by the local authority.

Dissington Garden Village was not among the initial list of 14 garden villages announced by the Department for Communities and Local Government earlier this year, but the report by planning officers includes a note of optimism.

It states: ‘The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has recently provided confirmation to the council that it is supportive of the scheme, despite having not been announced in the first tranche of garden village projects being supported by Government.

‘The provision of “critical friend support” and possible “capacity funding support” shows a clear statement of intent from DCLG and the HCA of their continued commitment to ensuring that the Dissington Garden Village proposal progresses.’