Concerns over new county blueprint

The field at Stobhill proposed for housing development.
The field at Stobhill proposed for housing development.

COUNCILLORS in Morpeth and Ponteland have had their say about potential future development in their area.

In the autumn, Northumberland County Council unveiled its proposals for housing and employment land as part of its core strategy consultation, including potential additions and deletions to the green belt.

A few of the measures have been welcomed by Ponteland Town Council and Morpeth Town Council, but they have also raised a number of concerns in their responses.

The section for Morpeth identifies 1,500 new dwellings over the next 20 years. New areas of housing will be needed in the north of the town and around five hectares of land for employment uses will need to be identified to the north west.

But its town council believes that it would be better to have an overall housing figure for the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan area – this also includes the parishes of Pegswood, Mitford, Hebron and Hepscott – and the county council should trust the neighbourhood plan process to allocate housing in line with the core strategy’s principles.

The authority’s other points include the following: “We are concerned that the justification for Morpeth being a growth point for the county is inadequately made.

“No new allocations of employment land are identified (the Fairmoor allocations are merely a ‘refresh’ of existing undeveloped allocations) and work on the Neighbourhood Plan suggests that major improvements in areas such as infrastructure, transport capacity and school provision will be required if Morpeth is to absorb a 19 per cent increase in population and a 20 to 25 per cent increase in housing, whilst retaining at least some of its essential character.

“Without adequate local employment and firm policies defining the type and mix of housing, new development will be occupied by Tyneside commuters to the detriment of Morpeth’s character and Northumberland’s economy.

“We welcome the designation of new green belt around Morpeth and support the broad approach.

“However, the north western inner boundary to the new green belt does not appear to protect the setting of Morpeth.

“It effectively allows Morpeth to sprawl northwards north of the new link road and coalesce with Fairmoor and Northgate Hospital.”

The county council is looking to build 850 new homes in Ponteland and some of the area’s green belt would be deleted to provide new estates and buildings for employment use.

In its response, Ponteland Town Council said: “Ponteland is not a ‘key service centre’.

“It has a limited range of services and facilities.

“Only small scale development is appropriate for Ponteland and there is no need to utilise green belt land.

“Priority should be given to building on previously developed land (brownfield sites) such as the police headquarters and former auction mart that could potentially provide over 420 new dwellings and this is more than the number required for a settlement performing at the lower end of a service centre.

“Ponteland needs better services more than it needs major development.”