PLAN: Vote offers us crucial control

Can I add my voice to those of support for the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan? My perspective is from the outlying villages and parishes — Hepscott, Pegswood, Mitford and Hebron — because we’re a big part of it too.

We love the Morpeth area and Morpeth itself is a fine old market town which combines the advantages of excellent facilities and services with the benefits of living in the countryside. All the surrounding villages are handily placed to enjoy lovely rural surroundings with great access to shops, schools and services.

Yet in recent months and years things appeared to be changing for the worse. Large housing estates are growing up and developers are applying to build on the green fields that surround our fine town. These fields form the verdant surrounds of the villages, as well as the lungs and green entrances of Morpeth.

Because there was no overall plan, developments occurred randomly, where developers had land, rather than where the planning authority or the community wanted. Builders had filled a vacuum left by the demise of Castle Morpeth.

Traffic becomes worse with ever-growing access to the town from the south being demanded, because that is where the new housing is located, and Telford Bridge the only river crossing point.

On Thursday, February 25, we have a chance to change all that. That is referendum day on the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan, the final stage.

The Plan has taken more than three years of very hard work by many local volunteers and is a community plan, put together by the community, in detailed consultation with the community.

It is pro-development, but with the vital difference of saying where the development is wanted by the community. Tight boundaries have been drawn around Morpeth and the villages, with appropriate development encouraged inside the boundaries, not outside. The county’s emerging Core Strategy, which determines Green Belt, is imminent and therefore the spaces between the villages and Morpeth will be Green Belt, not building sites.

If the Plan succeeds it will form part of the Local Plan, which must be taken into account when considering planning applications.

If the Plan fails, we are back to random growth on land that suits builders not the community. The choice is ours.

Villages, parishes, Morpeth, please vote on February 25.

Philip Ashmore