Housing claim ‘an insult to our community’

Local politicians have set out why they believe plans for new housing on the green belt in Ponteland should be refused.

Lugano Group is appealing a Northumberland County Council decision to turn down an outline proposal for up to 280 homes and other facilities on a site at Birney Hill – part of the land is close to properties on the southern edge of the Darras Hall estate.

A total of 4,310 objections were submitted and there were 487 letters supporting the scheme.

When the public inquiry resumed on Tuesday, the third party objectors included Peter Jackson, county councillor for the Ponteland South with Heddon ward.

He said: “Nothing from this application or from the opening statement from Lugano’s barrister (David Cooper) would lead me or the community to think that there is anything at all special about their plans.

“The application is for an unsustainable and undeliverable scheme of which most of the various elements could quite easily be developed out elsewhere – anywhere but on green belt land.

“For Mr Cooper to say that the scheme is going to ‘rescue Darras Hall from a downward spiral’ is simply an insult to our community, an assertion not based on fact.

“The Birney Hill site is not in a sustainable location. The access roads are poor, the plan includes no provision for connectivity to the rest of the village or its facilities and there is every prospect that Birney Hill would just end up being an isolated community, very much on the periphery of Ponteland.”

Guy Opperman MP, whose Hexham constituency includes Ponteland, spoke at the inquiry a week ago.

He said: “I am on record as having supported, and continue to support, substantial development of housing at sites such as the old police headquarters in north Ponteland and the St Mary’s hospital site near Stannington, a couple of miles to the north of Ponteland.

“As anyone who knows me will confirm I am huge advocate of localism and of empowering local communities. The Birney Hill application seeks, in my opinion, to circumvent the Local Plan process.

“I do not always agree with the county council’s draft Local Plan policies, but that is the right and proper democratic process. And despite setting itself what are, in my opinion, overly ambitious housing growth targets, the council still does not recommend the Birney Hill site for development.”