Thousands oppose new housing plans

The proposed Birney Hill development site.
The proposed Birney Hill development site.

A CAMPAIGN against plans for a new housing estate on green-belt land in Ponteland has won widespread community backing.

The number of people who have objected to Lugano Group’s outline bid for up to 280 homes and other facilities on a site at Birney Hill has now exceeded 2,500 and is approaching the 2,700 mark.

The arguments for why it should be rejected were sent out to homes across the area by the Ponteland Greenbelt Group to balance the documents put through people’s doors by the applicant.

About 250 letters of support have been received. Positive comments have been made in particular about the community trust, which Lugano says will be owned and run by residents.

Millions of pounds would be made available to enhance the area’s social, economic and environmental well-being.

Alma Dunigan, chairman of the Ponteland Greenbelt Group, said: “We are not surprised with this massive response to such an application. We have always known how passionate the residents are about preserving the green belt around Ponteland, now so does everyone else.

“Delivering broadsheet-style literature to every household only fuels residents’ opinions with suspicion on this proposed development using a community land trust. They can be a legal nightmare.

“When it comes to decision time on this application, the inclusion of a vague proposal will have no benefit in planning terms.”

Members’ concerns include a belief that nearby properties will be more likely to flood from the surface water run-off coming from the properties, the extra traffic which would result from an influx of families, the estate would put more pressure on the existing village infrastructure which is already under strain, only a few of the homes would available for social rent so most would be unaffordable to those in need of affordable housing and the economic and other benefits of the agricultural land would be lost.

Ponteland Town Council has also objected.

Lugano claims the ‘environmentally-friendly’ scheme would create around 900 job opportunities over the next five to 10 years.

Development director Richard Robson said: “Any significant housing development is always going to generate some controversy, but it’s encouraging to see that many people have taken the time to write in support of the development.

“It is harder to write an individual letter than just putting your name to something already in place.

“As we have done throughout the process, we will continue our dialogue with the county council and local community until the application is decided.

“The community trust model has received positive comments from people who quite rightly see it in separation from our overall proposal.”

The county council is aiming to make a decision on the application at a west area planning committee meeting in July.