Outline bid for 280 new homes in village faces stiff criticism

Lugano submits planning application for Birney Hill, Ponteland
Lugano submits planning application for Birney Hill, Ponteland

PLANS for a new major housing estate in Ponteland have come in for strong criticism from local councillors.

After studying the detailed documents submitted by Lugano Group relating to its outline bid for up to 280 homes and other facilities on a site at Birney Hill, Ponteland Town Council has decided to lodge an objection.

It has raised a number of issues with the proposal. Members believe it contravenes green belt policy and that it is premature, inappropriate and unsustainable.

They also agreed with the view of many residents that an ample provision of homes is either already available or has planning permission and is awaiting construction.

At a special meeting of the authority, planning committee chairman David Butler read out a summary of its position, made up of comments by all councillors, before stating its reasons for objection.

He said: “While the applicant acknowledges that the proposals will result in essential harm, the council believes its stated ‘very special reasons’ for development in the green belt have not been established.

“This location is remote from shops, schools and medical facilities, therefore it is not suitable for affordable housing. It is tenuous to argue that this development will improve the environment as the reduction of surface flooding and farm re-modelling does not require development in order to be implemented.

“Also, the need to provide bus services for an outlying area can hardly be regarded as a reason for building in the green belt.

“It is premature because development plans are currently being drafted and this principle has recently been upheld by a High Court decision and supported by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Eric Pickles).

“The proposal will detrimentally affect the Northumberland County Council Core Strategy and consequently, is contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework. Assumptions have been made as to the number, type and location of housing, but the county council is still carrying out population and growth modelling, which could also impact on the boundary of the green belt.”

One of the reasons given for why the town council thinks the plans are inappropriate is concerns voiced by Newcastle Airport, as it says development to the western fringe of the airport would be under the flight paths on land which rises towards the west.

The authority believes the development would adversely affect the local biodiversity and that improved pedestrian and cycle links will not be sufficient to offset the extra vehicular movements as a result of the influx of new families.

Addressing the points about unsustainability, Coun Butler said: “The existing infrastructure in Ponteland is struggling to cope with the current population numbers.

“There has been inadequate improvement to the infrastructure in connection with previous and pending developments and there are concerns that more large-scale developments will further reduce the quality of life.

“The developers claim that they are prepared to address all aspects of flood risk, but there is little evidence that the measures suggested will be acceptable or reliable to all interested parties. Concerns have been raised about the proven effectiveness of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems.”

Lugano says millions of pounds would be made available to a community trust, which would be owned and run by residents, to enhance the social, economic and environmental well-being of Ponteland.

But the town council stated that in its opinion, this approach does not require green belt development for its deployment.

Many of those in attendance broke into a round of applause at the end of the meeting.

Alma Dunigan, chairman of the Ponteland Greenbelt Group which is campaigning against the proposal, said: “We’re delighted with the conclusion of the town council.

“We’re encouraged by the amount of time and effort that the councillors put into their deliberations. They have gone through hundreds of pages before coming to their decision.”