Concern over scale of housing proposals

Members of the Ponteland Green Belt Group during a protest against plans for a housing development at Birney Hill.
Members of the Ponteland Green Belt Group during a protest against plans for a housing development at Birney Hill.

A war of words has developed between Ponteland residents and Northumberland County Council over future housing figures.

Concerns have been raised after the local authority’s latest core strategy designated the area as a ‘main town’ and allocated hundreds of new homes that it could lead to a 35 per cent growth in the population.

The draft document states that sites identified for additional housing in the plan period, which started in April 2011 and runs to 2031, are about 400 units on land east of Callerton Lane (existing schools and leisure site), 180 on land west of Callerton Lane (in front of Willow Way) and 300 at the police headquarters site off North Road – a total of approximately 880.

But the Ponteland Green Belt Group says that this is only part of the growth set to happen as in addition to the police site, there are another 300 or so that have outline permission or have been completed and taking the current windfall units average for Ponteland will result in 450 new homes over the plan period.

Chairman Tony Noble said: “We are sceptical that the developer taking on the site where the schools and leisure centre are at the moment is only going to build 400 homes when the average build is 30 to 40 units per hectare, i.e. 900 to 1,200 homes.

“We are dismayed that the county council continues to ignore the views of the vast majority of Ponteland residents.

“The housing numbers provided within this version are a minimum – sites identified for development within this version provide the potential for more than 2,000 homes during the plan period.

“This represents a 35 per cent growth in the population of Ponteland – with no indication of any infrastructure investment to support this level of growth.”

“NCC’s own planning experts have told us, by way of an FOI request, that anything over 1,000 houses in Ponteland would compromise the character of the village. It would appear therefore that the administration has made a conscious decision to destroy the distinctive and unique character of Ponteland.”

Coun Allan Hepple, cabinet member for economic growth at the county council, said: “We have listened very carefully to the views of everyone who has commented on the core strategy, and particularly with regard to Ponteland, have made a number of significant changes to try to address concerns.

“Major changes include significantly reducing the level of safeguarded land proposed to be removed from the green belt and the identification of a future site for employment development.

“The council is planning to make significant investment in community infrastructure, including in schools and leisure facilities in Ponteland, and this is reflected in the changes proposed in the core strategy. The proposals better reflect the role of the town and will ensure the delivery of sustainable development.

“The plan clearly shows provision for around 880 additional new homes, nowhere near the figures quoted by the green belt group.”