Infrastructure fears of homes expansion

A MAJOR housing proposal for Ponteland has been met with concerns about its potential impact on residents.

Banks Property has revealed that it is looking to bring forward a scheme at Clickemin Farm, which would see up to 500 new homes built on agricultural land in the south east of the village, either side of Rotary Way.

Detailed proposals are in development, although the company will be holding a public exhibition this summer at which it will be discussing the outline principles with local people and listening to their views.

But there have already been complaints from community leaders that Ponteland would find it difficult to cope with the extra demand on its roads and schools if there is a big influx of new residents and they are unhappy about the potential loss of green land.

At the same time, moves are under way by Newcastle-based Lugano Property Group to put together a wide-ranging scheme for Ponteland, with new housing among the possible developments.

A ‘planning ideas day’ will take place next month to identify potential sites and give residents the chance to put forward their views.

Ponteland Mayor Peter Cowey believes that no large-scale housing projects should go ahead until the correct infrastructure is in place.

“If hundreds of new homes are built, you can imagine the traffic impact it will have as there is already a lot of congestion at peak times because we don’t have a bypass,” he said.

“There would be even more pressure on our schools, which have hundreds of pupils attending from the Newcastle area.

“Another concern is that Banks has not mentioned affordable housing in regard to its proposal. These properties are crucial in enabling young adults to get on the property ladder in Ponteland, otherwise they will have to go elsewhere.

“I’ve heard that there will be an exhibition in the summer about the plans, but it would have been nice if Banks had met the parish council before making them public. We could have raised a number of community-based issues with them and discussed how any community infrastructure levy could be spent.

“It appears that Lugano is taking a better approach as it is holding a public event before coming forward with any specific sites.”

Government moves to remove some of the red tape around housing development is being seen as one of the main reasons why land on the edge of Ponteland is being targeted, but MP Guy Opperman is encouraged by a recent exchange in the House of Commons with Local Government minister Andrew Stunell.

The Hexham member asked him if Northumberland County Council should promote and maintain brownfield sites for development before greenfield when drawing up its Local Development Framework.

Mr Stunell said: “I draw his and the council’s attention to the publication, two weeks ago, of the national planning policy framework, which sets out the importance of making sure that all such plans are founded on the principles of sustainable development.

“Of course, the Government wants to encourage every local authority to focus on land of the least environmental quality, and that, of course, includes brownfield sites.”

Mr Opperman said: “I don’t think the minister could be any firmer that it’s contrary to Government policy to build on greenfield land if brownfield sites are available.

“I’m resolutely opposed to concreting over greenfield and so I will be leading the campaign against the plans.

“I also fail to see how the infrastructure of Ponteland is capable of coping with this significant development.”

Banks Property says the scheme could include community and environmental improvements, such as an upgrade of sports and leisure facilities. There may also be scope for providing land and accommodation for employment use.

Managing director Michael Shuttleworth said: “When compared to other similar settlements, Ponteland has fewer facilities when it comes to sports and leisure provision, retail choice, community and public buildings and family housing supply, and the Clickemin scheme that we are developing has the potential to make a significant positive impact across all these areas.

“We are at a very early stage with this scheme and have much work to do on our designs before any planning application is submitted.

“Early indications suggest the scheme could comprise in the region of 500 new homes. We will, of course, take every care to ensure that the new development would be sympathetic to the existing surroundings in terms of scale and design.

“The involvement of local people will be central to taking the design process forward and we will provide every possible opportunity over the coming months for all interested parties to put forward their ideas about how this scheme might be shaped.”

Lugano’s planning event is being held on behalf of investors interested in proposals to meet the future needs of Ponteland.

It will include workshop discussions with specialists, a public presentation and the chance to explore design ideas and suggestions of future change.

A spokeswoman for the company said: “We’re looking for imaginative input and ideas from people interested and involved with Ponteland to help to shape design proposals for the future of the town.

“The aim is to build on the strengths of Ponteland and make sure that whatever proposals emerge over the next few months, they are informed by thoughtful forward-looking community involvement.”