Residents in a Morpeth estate are uniting their efforts in a bid to strengthen the case against a potential major development on their doorstep.
People living in Lancaster Park have been discussing the proposal for up to 400 new homes and a range of other facilities on agricultural land to the west of their properties with each other since Mitford Estate carried out a public consultation in late November.
And they were recently given the opportunity to come together to express their concerns at a special meeting, which took place at All Saints First School. A total of 153 residents attended.
The event also included a presentation by Dr Colin Coates, a retired environment, health and safety director, on the proposed development.
He said: “I was keen to point out the potential dangers the plan represented to the quality of life of residents of Lancaster Park and Morpeth more generally.
“There are traffic implications, flooding and sewage issues and hundreds of new homes would put a lot of pressure on Morpeth’s schools system.
“In addition, some of the residents on Pinewood Drive are alarmed that the potential retail park and area for lorries would be located literally right behind their homes.
“As individuals there is little we can do, but if we band together we can achieve much more and help protect our gem of a town. We are required to take action because whilst Northumberland County Council repeatedly expends so much time, effort and money in producing excellent quality guidance documents, they take too long to come into effect.
“We have been overwhelmed by the offers of help and support after the meeting and we are putting together a core group to make sure that the wishes of the residents are fully attended to during the process.
“We have also set up a website to inform and hopefully galvanise local people.”
Fellow committee member David Ridley added: “I was delighted to see such fantastic support with more than 150 people making the effort on a cold night.
“The numbers attending and the points made from the floor showed the strength of feeling and depth of objections from Lancaster Park residents and we know that others from further afield in Morpeth are against these plans.
“We have a number of people with a good spread of expertise to take the fight forward to convince the planners that the land to the north west of Lancaster Park should be safeguarded, as there are better sites to allow Morpeth to develop in a more controlled and organised way.”
A hotel, restaurant, pub and shop could be included in the development, along with new community facilities and the creation of a country park.
It is being progressed by Signet Planning on behalf of Mitford Estate and a planning application is set to be submitted in the coming months.
The meeting and moves to start a core group have received support from David Bawn, county councillor for Morpeth North.
He said: “The land in question is earmarked to be ‘safeguarded’ from development until 2031 in the draft local authority Core Strategy and the Local Plan, both currently out for consultation.
“Unfortunately, until the Core Strategy becomes legal, probably in 18 months time, areas like this are vulnerable to exploitation by such speculative planning applications trying to get in under the wire and be approved before the strategy comes into force.
“However, all is not lost and I urge residents to organise themselves and share skills and resources, as there are proper material planning grounds which local people can use to object.
“I would also recommend that as many people as possible engage in the Local Plan and Core Strategy process.”
The website that has been set up by the Lancaster Park group is savemorpeth.weebly.com
As well as information about the development and other significant planning applications in Morpeth, residents can submit their details if they want to be part of the team or would just like to be kept informed.