Housing figures dispute

A GROUP of councillors have raised concerns about the vision for future development in Northumberland.

In its response to the county council’s core strategy, the Conservative group has criticised the approach and questioned figures in some of the sections, including the green belt, population growth and the general economy.

Its members partly agree with some aspects, although suggestions are made to develop them further.

On the projected population increase, the Tories argue that the suggestion of a 10.3 per cent rise in the next 20 years is excessive, so the identified need for an extra 24,310 homes is too high.

The response also includes the following: “We feel that the thrust of the document is based on the notion that the economy of the county would be revived by house-building.

“However, we are not persuaded that new house-building necessarily leads to sustainable and long-term local jobs, or that adding to population growth automatically creates an increase in sustainable jobs.

“We do not agree with the deletion of sections of the green belt. It is less likely, in any case, that there would be a need to change the current boundaries if the likely population growth figure of 4.2 per cent was utilised.

“It is our view that significant sites for development remain on brownfield and previously developed land.”

On affordable housing, the group says: “We support the overall percentage target of 30 as the element of affordable housing within new building development, and remain supportive generally of our long-held view that we must do more to encourage the building of this housing type.

“Furthermore, we feel that there should be greater emphasis given to measures which would encourage rural affordable housing for lower paid residents.”

A spokesman for the Labour administration said the Tories are the largest political group on the county’s local development framework.

He added: “We’re pleased that Northumberland Conservatives have belatedly acknowledged we have to build homes to encourage the levels of economic growth that will eventually lead to rising incomes. They’re now backing our affordable homes programme and we welcome their change of heart.

“I’m afraid we’re going to have to agree to disagree over the finer details like population growth as we’re confident that our projections are robust and will stand the 20-year test. The challenge for local Tories is to stop playing politics with the plan and to look forward not back.

“This year will see a very challenging budget, but this policy sets out an ambitious plan to make our county more prosperous.”