Councillors have given the green light to a new fire station in Ponteland, despite concerns and objections about its location in the green belt.
The new facility, on land west of Ponteland High School, off Callerton Lane, was unanimously approved at Tuesday’s (March 5) meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee.
The site would feature a single-storey, seven-metre-high fire station, a 14-metre-high training tower, a training yard and 13 parking bays.
It is located approximately 340 metres south of the existing fire station which is to be demolished, freeing up land for the town’s major new school and leisure development.
The new facility would be within the North Tyneside Green Belt, originally designated in 1963, but planning officers had recommended approval due to the ‘very special circumstances’ demonstrated by the emergency service.
The majority of Ponteland’s retained firefighters are able to reach the current fire station just up the road in under five minutes, so ‘the new location is essential to maintain the existing high standards of response times’.
Addressing members’ concerns, the council’s new head of planning, Rob Murfin, explained that fire stations were a special case and if this site ceased to be used for that purpose, it would revert to green belt and any application would be determined in that light.
John Hague, of Ponteland Civic Society, addressed the meeting to express concerns about the green belt and the impact on what is a designated ‘green approach’ to the town.
“It would inflict serious damage on the existing landscape scene,” he said. “It has to be located elsewhere, it has to be put in another location.”
He also raised concerns about the loss of trees at the site, disagreeing with the tree officer’s assessment that it would not result in a loss of amenity and adding that it was bizarre to try to justify their felling by saying they are not native species ‘as though they are illegal immigrants of the tree world’.
But at the start of the meeting, planning officer Ryan Soulsby had provided details of a new, more detailed landscaping condition, which will ensure new trees are planted.
Coun Christine Caisley, of Ponteland Town Council, said that they accepted the very special circumstances argument as there is nowhere else in the town to put the fire station, with the next nearest being in Ponteland and Pegswood.
“No one wants the facility in their backyard, but it has to go somewhere,” she added. “As a town councillor, I’m looking at the greater good.”
Coun Jeff Reid still had reservations, saying: “A lot of us have sat in rooms like this for a lot of years where special circumstances are talked about, but 20 years down the line it all goes out the window. I would prefer something to say that it can’t be used for anything else but a fire station.”
But Coun Barry Flux said: “I think there’s been far, far, far too much doom and gloom. I think our fire service should be in modern buildings.”
Coun Rupert Gibson added: “I’m very pleased to hear from the town council – they seem totally behind this. I have a feeling this is a better site than the previous one.”
After the meeting, Coun Richard Dodd, ward member for Ponteland North, welcomed the approval: “It’s much needed and imagine the howls that would happen if we weren’t replacing it.”
“There’s 30 trees, we are going to lose half ot them, but they will be replaced”, he added, pointing out that Ponteland is ‘one of the leafiest places in the north of England’.
The decision was also welcomed by Sean Hedley, managing director of agent Hedley Planning Services, who said: “This is an important planning approval, which will now help to pave the way forward for wider development of the area and allay local concerns about the future provision of fire and rescue services in Ponteland.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service