Entrance prompts fresh criticism

PONTELAND Town Council has come in for fresh criticism over its easy access entrance to Ponteland Park.

Members agreed by a majority vote earlier this year to go ahead with the meandering path from West Road into the park to reduce the impact of the slope on people in wheelchairs and those with pushchairs living nearby, despite concerns from the Friends of Ponteland Park (FOPP).

But as the works involve linking with the footpath and the A696, the county council’s highways department has insisted that planning permission is required.

The Ponteland authority, which has carried out work on the path, is unhappy with this position.

It believed it was able to go ahead with the project by using permitted development rights. Contractors have fenced the area off for the time being.

At a recent meeting, resident Alan Varley blamed members for going ahead without checking if it needed to make a planning application.

He said: “Given this amateurish oversight, will Ponteland Town Council now fully explain how it has found itself in this risible position?

“In particular, can the council confirm that this error of judgement was authorised by the full council and, if not, does it consider this cavalier use of public funds represents best democratic value for money?”

After saying that the full council voted on the matter, Ponteland Mayor Peter Cowey said it didn’t realise at the time that planning permission was required.

Coun Robin Ramsay added: “An earlier proposal for an easy access point was dropped after it was deemed too costly, but the one on West Road provides value for money, is environmentally friendly and would benefit a number of residents.

“We felt that these works came within our permitted development rights for the park and we were surprised and disappointed when the county council insisted that we had to make an application.”

When the proposal was put forward, FOPP argued that a lack of car parking facilities nearby may put off people from using it and it would be tricky to cross the road with a wheelchair onto the narrow pavement in the particular area.

A spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council said: “Planning permission is needed for the work that is required to link this path to the footpath and what is a classified road (Class B).

“The application will be assessed taking into account traffic and road safety issues.”