Green belt battle won, but war ‘is not over’

One of the areas of green belt at Birney Hill that would have become housing if Lugano Group's application was approved.
One of the areas of green belt at Birney Hill that would have become housing if Lugano Group's application was approved.
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Residents who opposed a bid for a new housing estate on a green belt site celebrated its refusal by a Government minister over the weekend.

But the Ponteland Greenbelt Group is now bracing itself for an ‘even tougher’ challenge to try to prevent the deletion of this land as proposed in the draft version of a key county document.

Last Friday, it was revealed that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, had rejected Lugano Group’s appeal over its application for up to 280 homes and other facilities on a site at Birney Hill to the south of the Darras Hall estate.

He ruled that accessibility to services and facilities from the site is ‘relatively poor’, the economic or social benefits of the proposed development were not convincingly argued and there would be ‘clear environmental harm’.

A total of 4,310 objections were submitted when the plans were refused by Northumberland County Council.

However, in its draft Core Strategy the county authority has proposed the deletion of just over 200 acres of green belt in and around Ponteland by 2031 for a leisure centre and schools relocation and new housing and employment units.

Ponteland Greenbelt Group deputy chair Tony Noble said: “We’re delighted with the Birney Hill decision and a big ‘thank you’ goes out to all our supporters and the residents of Ponteland. This was a community effort.

“Whilst this decision is very encouraging, the green belt around Ponteland continues to face an even greater threat from the county council’s Core Strategy.

“On the one hand, the strategy proposes that Ponteland ‘s contribution to the housing requirement of the county is to build 640 houses.

“With the building that has already taken place and the current planning permissions granted, we are less than 50 houses short of that target, but on the other hand, the council is currently proposing to release over 200 acres of green belt land. It just doesn’t make sense.

“If these plans for Ponteland are included in its final documents, we will challenge the council’s overambitious and unrealistic growth ambitions when the strategy is assessed by an independent planning inspector.”