Views sought on housing sites

A draft assessment of potential housing sites across Northumberland has been put out for consultation.

Northumberland County Council has published its draft Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), looking at the suitability of sites for house-building.

Areas include vacant land and buildings, surplus public sector land and agricultural sites.

A colour-coded map shows green sites that could be developed in the next 15 years, as well as those areas where development is uncertain (amber), or discounted (red).

Sites have been identified by landowners, developers, planning agents and the local authority, but council planners insist that the SHLAA does not allocate land for residential use or suggest that planning permission will be granted for housing.

In Morpeth, the SHLAA lists County Hall, the Barratt’s appeal site south of Stobhill, land at Peacock Gap, St George’s Hospital and Northgate as potential development sites, while land north of Lancaster Park, the former Morpeth Cottage Hospital, Morpeth Library and Morpeth Police Station are coded amber.

It discounts land south of Bellway’s recently-approved site at Loansdean for housing.

In Ponteland, the housing site proposed by Lugano is discounted, but land either side of Ponteland Road is ‘uncertain’, and it is coded green at the Police Headquarters.

Elsewhere, land at Hepscott is identified for potential housing, as is Longhirst Hall, while a site south of the Gubeon Plantations near Tranwell is coded amber.

Despite the council’s assurances that the assessments do not indicate where housing would be permitted, Morpeth town councillor Joan Tebbutt, who has campaigned against developments on the edge of the town with the South Morpeth Coalition and Hepscott and Morpeth Together group, says they are a cause for concern.

She said: “This is an exercise that happens all the time when people are able to put forward new pieces of land to be considered. It is a statutory process as part of the evidence base that the council uses for coming up with its core strategy.

“However, I have some concerns about it. In the recent Stobhill appeal, the Barratt representative was saying very strongly that the initial assessment the officers make is significant, and if it says it is a potential site they can go for it.

“The county council’s understanding is that it is not the case, but I do think the council should look seriously at how it makes the SHLAA assessments. Perhaps it might be more strategic.

“There might be a set process it has to go through, but I think it ought to be very careful about what it is doing and the message that gets out.”

Public consultation on the draft has now begun, and Coun Tebbutt urged people to get involved.

“It is very easy for the community to be very down about planning and say they have lost control and can’t influence it, but we need as a community across the country to get involved and make our voices heard,” she said.