Row over MP’s comments on plans

PLANS for new homes on Green Belt land in Ponteland have led to a political row.

Guy Opperman has given his support to campaigns by residents in Ponteland and Hexham to oppose such developments being looked at by property companies.

And with the county council currently looking at its Core Strategy, which will set out its position on the future provision of housing in all of its main settlements, the MP has warned that it will be open to accusations of ‘selling off the family silver’ if it removes certain areas from the Green Belt.

But councillors who make up the authority’s ruling Liberal Democrat group have hit back, saying his comments are unhelpful and the document could end up giving further protection to this land.

Mr Opperman said: “The county council has a duty to protect what makes our area so special. People are annoyed that at the same time as possibly selling off our Green Belt, we see them splashing out on vanity projects like a new £20 million leisure centre for Ashington.

“Any development must be organic and sustainable. What nobody wants to see is large swathes of Green Belt land being sold off to developers for cash crop housing estates.”

In Ponteland, Banks Property and Lugano Group are examining sites at Clickemin Farm and Birney Hill respectively.

County council executive member for regeneration, Tom Brechany, said: “It is inaccurate, not to mention completely unhelpful, of Guy Opperman to try to panic people in this way for political purposes.

“I’ve had assurances from council officers on this, who have confirmed that there are no definite proposals to delete areas of the Green Belt in Northumberland. Indeed, the Core Strategy at Issues and Options stage actually proposes an extension of the existing Green Belt around Morpeth.”