What does the future hold for the area’s main towns?

A map showing the green belt boundary around Morpeth.
A map showing the green belt boundary around Morpeth.

Consultation on the final draft of a key document, which will dictate how Northumberland develops in the years to come, started yesterday.

The pre-submission draft of the core strategy, which sets out the council’s priorities for the future, including the creation of 10,000 jobs by 2031 and extending choice in the housing market, was approved by the authority’s cabinet a fortnight ago.

A map showing the green belt boundary around Ponteland.

A map showing the green belt boundary around Ponteland.

The Northumberland Local Plan, as it’s known, provides policies to control where development should take place, sitting beneath the Government’s overarching National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and above the more local Neighbourhood Plans, which are being developed by many communities.

All consultation documents are now available to view online at corestrategy.northumberland.gov.uk and a leaflet has been posted through every door in the county explaining the consultation and how to have your say.

The consultation closes at midnight on Wednesday, November 25.

In the county council’s vision for Morpeth and Ponteland, both will continue to act as key hubs according to the core strategy. They are listed among the 12 main towns in Northumberland. There are two other main towns in the Central Delivery Area – Hexham and Prudhoe, and one of the tier below (service centres) – Corbridge.

The map showing the key breakdown of Northumberland for the core strategy.

The map showing the key breakdown of Northumberland for the core strategy.

It is proposed that 5,940 homes would be built in the Central Delivery Area over the lifetime of the plan (2011 to 2031). The Core Strategy has also had the task of defining boundaries for the green-belt extension around Morpeth.

It has also had to consider whether exceptional circumstances apply that mean it is necessary to amend existing green-belt boundaries to accommodate needed development.

In Morpeth itself, the inner boundary has been defined to allow for appropriate long-term growth, while in Ponteland, strategic amendments have been made to reflect very special circumstances, to allow for needed development and some land safeguarded for development beyond 2031.

Around Morpeth, a number of villages are to have inset boundaries: Belsay, Hartburn, Hebron, Hepscott, Longhirst, Longhorsley, Mitford, Netherwitton, Pegswood, Stannington, Stannington Station, Ulgham and Whalton.

Drop-in sessions are being held in Morpeth on Monday, November 9, in the Corn Exchange, from 2pm-7pm, and in Ponteland on Saturday, November 7, in the Memorial Hall, from 10am-3pm.

Linked to the Core Strategy, proposals are being brought forward for new school buildings on alternative sites to be co-located with leisure services for Morpeth First School, Chantry and Newminster Middle Schools and KEVI in the Morpeth Partnership and Darras Hall First School, Ponteland Middle School and Ponteland High School in the Ponteland Partnership. Relevant officers and professionals will be present at the Ponteland and Morpeth events to present plans, answer questions and gather views on these proposals.

The Morpeth plan

Additional large-scale development and growth will be focused on three key towns including Morpeth, to support the rejuvenation and revitalisation of communities, by identifying and supporting targeted levels of development.

Housing

The proposed requirement for additional dwellings between April 2011 and March 2031 is around 2,100 (105 per year). The town will act as a focus for large-scale housing development to support the rejuvenation and revitalisation of communities. The St George’s Hospital site close to the new Northern Bypass will act as one of two strategic delivery housing sites in the county, providing around 1,000 new homes.

Employment

o additional employment land allocations over and above existing available land. The town has a successful industrial estate, but with limited land for new businesses. The area is increasingly a focus for knowledge based and creative businesses. Any further additional employment allocation will require changes to the proposed inner green-belt boundary for Morpeth due to a lack of available and deliverable sites. A minor amendment has been made to the proposed inner boundary at Coopies Lane Industrial Estate to reflect this. It is not proposed to allocate additional land in the Core Strategy, but to monitor the take-up of the sites at Fairmoor following the completion of the Morpeth Northern bypass and undertake a further assessment of need given the improved links with the south east of the county.

Town centre

Falls into the top level of the hierarchy of town centres, being a ‘main commercial centre’ with a good level of retail provision along with town centre community facilities. It is reasonably well provided for in terms of accessibility by public transport and has a good level of off-street car parking. It acts as a community hub for a large population covering the town and its wide rural hinterland. This role along with its vitality and viability as a centre will be protected and enhanced through policy. The centre has experienced considerable investment in recent years and the Strategy will support future such investment.

Green belt

The town is inset within the green belt. Through the Core Strategy, the outer boundary is defined beyond the town to conform with the general extent defined in the former County Structure Plan (saved policy). An inner boundary for the town is also defined to include scope for this strategy period and safeguarded land for development in the years beyond 2031.

Key issues

The key development opportunities are related to the development of the Morpeth Northern Bypass.

Notwithstanding the building of the bypass, there remains an issue of the lack of a dual carriageway on the A1 north of the town. The Core Strategy supports such a scheme.

Morpeth also has a strong relationship with Cramlington and the South East Northumberland Delivery Area, which will be further strengthened following completion of the Northern Bypass.

The town’s emerging neighbourhood plan has a range of detailed policies for the town.

Morpeth benefits from passenger services on the East Coast Main Line, but local train services are limited with limited scope for increased frequency. The town’s connectivity may be improved through the proposed reintroduction of passenger rail services to the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne line, if the associated branch line from Bedlington to Morpeth via Choppington becomes part of the proposals.

Following the 2008 flood at Morpeth, work has now been completed on a major flood alleviation scheme involving raised flood defences and the storage of floodwater upstream.

The town adjoins a coalfield area that has been the subject of opencast proposals in recent years. Further such proposals will be determined according to two different sets of criteria, one relating to areas north and east of the town and one to areas south of the town.

The Ponteland plan

Housing

The proposed requirement for additional dwellings between April 2011 and March 2031 is around 900 (45 per year).

Employment

An additional employment land allocation of one hectare over and above existing available land. Ponteland has a successful industrial estate with little additional scope for new businesses. It is one of the settlements within Northumberland where the establishment of business ventures is relatively high. The Core Strategy seeks to build on this and provide the opportunity for strong markets to grow and deliver the plan’s job growth objective.

The emerging Ponteland Neighbourhood Plan identifies a long-term aspiration to relocate businesses on the Meadowfield Industrial Estate to a site away from residential areas. The Neighbourhood Plan Group is undertaking further work to clarify the viability of this approach. To facilitate this in the long term around five hectares of land will be safeguarded outside of the green belt to the west of the Airport roundabout on the A696. It is of a size sufficient to accommodate existing employment development in Ponteland, and some additional growth. In addition, an allocation for a small office development (the one hectare above) as part of the redevelopment of the existing education and leisure facilities will be made to provide for market need in the town

Town centre

Falls into the second level of the hierarchy of town centres, being a ‘smaller commercial centre’ with good local retail provision along with a reasonable range of town-centre community facilities, serving the town itself and with a modest rural hinterland. This role, along with its vitality and viability as a centre, will be protected and enhanced through policy. The council is considering opportunities to encourage the revitalisation of Merton Way in Ponteland and the Core Strategy proposals should facilitate proposed improvements to leisure facilities.

Green belt

The town is inset within the existing green belt. Through the Core Strategy, amendments are proposed to the inset boundary on the eastern edge of Ponteland, in order to accommodate sustainable long-term growth. These needs are considered to present the exceptional circumstances necessary for the proposed changes to be made. The changes proposed, following past consultations and evidence, are: Remove the area to the south east of Ponteland; north of Rotary Way, which included the previously developed sites of the Ponteland Leisure Centre and the Ponteland High and Middle schools. This will facilitate improvements to the education and leisure facilities and the redevelopment of the existing sites for housing and employment uses; Remove the area of the former Police HQ from the green belt plus some land to the east of this, west of North Road and north of the built-up area of Ponteland;· Remove existing housing on Cheviot View and Ridgley Drive from the green belt; Remove an area of land to the east of Ponteland adjacent to the A696 near the Airport for employment uses. This is to be safeguarded for employment development beyond the plan period.

In summary, regarding the housing requirement, in order to deliver the necessary housing, the following sites need to be removed from the green belt: Land east of Callerton Lane (around 400 units); Land west of Callerton Lane (around 180 units); Police Headquarters site, North Road (around 300 units).

Key issues

The town’s proximity to Tyneside means that it acts in part as a location for commuters to Tyneside including a substantial ‘executive housing’ offer. In terms of the wider housing market, there is a need to ensure that this essential role of Ponteland can continue.

Ponteland’s residents obtain many of their services from Tyneside. There is scope for the service offer of the town to improve and for advantage to be taken of the entrepreneurial presence in the town and the proximity of the Airport to build on the employment potential. The Core Strategy will support and promote these objectives within the constraints that exist.

The green belt has to be protected in terms of its overall purposes. Notwithstanding the exceptional circumstances that require some deletions, the Strategy will ensure that this is the case.

The council has worked with the town council which is producing a neighbourhood plan; a supplementary planning document is being produced to ensure that new development areas are planned and developed comprehensively.

Ponteland adjoins a coalfield area that has been the subject of opencast proposals in recent years that lie to its east. Further such proposals will be determined according to a set of criteria in the Core Strategy.