Residents say town should maintain its green corridor

IDEAS for future development and conservation in Morpeth have received strong backing from members of the public.

A total of 904 responses were submitted by residents to the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan issues and options consultation. A short and more detailed questionnaire was available.

And from the more detailed survey, 94 per cent agreed with the plan’s broad vision.

The same percentage said its aim to keep the green features on the approach roads into Morpeth is important and 90 per cent favour preventing coalescence with nearby villages such as Hebron, Hepscott and Mitford.

The drive to concentrate new housing to the north of the town received 85 per cent support and 92 per cent want brownfield land prioritised.

Some results were mixed as 47 per cent support the full or part pedestrianisation of Bridge Street, but 46 per cent are against such a move and 44 per cent consider Morpeth’s sports and leisure facilities to be inadequate, whereas 33 per cent take the opposite view.

Dozens of residents are involved in the plan process, which is being led by the town council.

They spent the last year discussing Morpeth’s key issues, including its overall housing need, education, traffic congestion, the sewage system and flood risk, environment and heritage and its relationship with surrounding villages.

Technical reports were produced and they were all incorporated into one main consultation document.

Coun Ken Brown, Chairman of the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, said: “I think the numbers are pretty good for a campaign like this, as the 904 figure covers about 10 per cent of households, and I would like to thank the people of Morpeth and neighbouring parishes for responding to the surveys in the manner in which they did.

“Every topic received a highly positive score, particularly environment and heritage.

“The lowest score on the positive scale was transport, but I think the current issues about traffic lights and parking were a factor and they are being addressed.

“The constructive nature of the comments will be very useful and now we need to pull the information together and look in more detail at the cross cutting issues facing the town.

“A good example of this is the Bridge Street pedestrianisation question, where there was just about an even split among residents.

“This process is linked to the county council’s core strategy timetable and I would urge everyone who responded to the neighbourhood plan to also respond to the latest core strategy consultation.

“We would like more responses from people under 20 and we have spoken with the KEVI School Council. As a result, a student-friendly questionnaire will be on the school’s intranet until Christmas.”

According to the current schedule, the draft neighbourhood plan should be ready for public consultation next summer.

Other survey results include 79 per cent of respondents being in favour of a new community theatre/arts centre and 66 per cent want a social heritage museum.