DEVELOPMENT: Long-term plan is getting lost
The ongoing disagreements between Northumberland County Council and many residents of Morpeth are worrying and curious.
The Labour-controlled county council appears to be seduced by the profit-driven principles of the free market, while local members of the Conservative Party argue that the market is not the best way to decide planning applications.
In this reversal of traditional approaches, a long-term strategic plan for the development of Morpeth gets lost behind short-term arguments.
Amidst the reports of disagreement, it is hard to discover what developers are being required to contribute by means of community benefit, such as new sporting facilities, playgrounds, open spaces, etc.
The number of boarded-up prime sites around the town centre suggests that developers are being allowed to delay building to a time of their convenience, the financial risk thus being born by the council taxpayers, rather than the developers and their shareholders.
Why is Morpeth Court still boarded up?
Why has the marketing of the former police headquarters failed while, apparently, council-owned sites are being snapped up?
Why is it taking so long to redevelop Castle Square, or make progress with the Queens Head or Smailes?
All of these are on the major route through the town and none encourage the visitor to stop and explore what else there is.
What should be the showcase seems to be becoming a dumping ground.
Developers and the county council are here to serve the people of Morpeth, not the other way round.