Joining forces to create a stronger voice for businesses

A NEW group is being formed to give Ponteland businesses and entrepreneurs a combined voice about its future.

And the man heading up the organisation is urging residents to take a more realistic view about housing development in the area.

Matt Gray, who owns carpet and flooring specialist Bonner and White, was interested in setting up a business forum a few years ago.

Although it ultimately did not get off the ground, he is making a renewed effort to bring together firms and enterprises under the Ponteland Business Network banner, given the major housing applications on the table or in the pipeline and the lack of progress in the Merton Way redevelopment.

The aim is to find out the pressing issues facing traders and see if there are common ideas and concerns.

The hottest topic in Ponteland at the moment is Lugano Group’s bid for up to 280 new homes in Birney Hill. Mr Gray believes more balance should be given to the debate about its plans and people should not dismiss them out of hand.

“We’re at an early stage in the process as the main focus at the moment is building up our database, but with everything going on at this time, I think it’s important for the Ponteland business community to come together and have our say about these issues,” he said.

“Everyone agrees that the infrastructure is not good enough and needs improving, but people need to realise that we won’t get the investment we need from the public sector and so we do need to seriously look at what the private sector is offering.

“With the Lugano application, for example, we do need to have a debate about the whether the positives of receiving major funding to address issues such as transport and drainage outweigh the loss of fields, instead of just saying there should be no building at all on the green belt.

“There are many other subjects which need to be addressed and hopefully we can form a group with lots of different expertise that can put forward some new ideas and feed into the neighbourhood plan process.”

The group is connected to the Northumberland Business Network, which has more than 1,100 members who come together via the Linkedin website.

It is looking to develop ‘economic zones’, starting with the former Castle Morpeth and Wansbeck district council areas based on chairman Charles Sellers’ informal connections with Northumberland College.

The first meeting of the Ponteland group will take place later this month.