PLANNING: Wording is important

I would like to thank the Herald for its coverage throughout the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan process, and hope you will continue to promote it as we approach the Referendum, which we hope will be held early in 2016.

However, I was disappointed that you did not print the full quote I included in the town council’s press release. I therefore repeat my message here, as it is important to acknowledge those who have worked so hard.

Residents of the Plan area are hugely indebted to members of the Plan Preparation Group (PPG), who spent countless hours over many months drafting the plan, making amendments following two periods of public consultation and bringing the submitted documentation to a highly professional standard.

The PPG was very ably led by councillor Nic Best, and included Philip Ashmore, Ed Campbell, Simon Cox, Alan Jones, Peter Scott, Graeme Trotter, David Woodard and me.

In addition we had significant support from our planning consultant Ian Campbell and from David English and David Rowlinson, both from the county council.

I am immensely grateful to them all for their commitment to the process throughout the lengthy preparation period.

On a different note, there is an unfortunate error in a very recent party political leaflet distributed in Morpeth and it is important that residents are not misled.

The leaflet says that, in relation to the planning application for land west of Lancaster Park: “This land is safeguarded in the neighbourhood plan and should remain so.”

The Neighbourhood Plan has no remit to decide what land is included in Green Belt and what land is “safeguarded”; a label that denotes land safeguarded for development after the plan period, which ends in 2031. Those designations are only within the remit of the county council’s core strategy.

Unfortunately, the core strategy designates part of the land west of Lancaster Park as Green Belt and part as safeguarded. Land safeguarded until after 2031 is highly likely to be developed after the plan period, so to suggest it should “remain so” is also a misunderstanding.

Morpeth Town Council has previously objected to the core strategy, requesting that all the land immediately west and north of Lancaster Park should be included within the proposed Green Belt. We will do so again in the next core strategy consultation, which starts shortly.

The county council will be holding a consultation event on the core strategy in the Town Hall on November 9, between 2pm and 7pm, so do pop in and make your views known.

What the neighbourhood plan does is establish settlement boundaries, outside of which is defined as “open countryside” where no development will be permitted unless there are exceptional circumstances. Land west of Lancaster Park is outside the settlement boundary of Morpeth.

The external examiner and the county council have supported our usage of settlement boundaries in this way, but again the plan period is to 2031, so Green Belt designation in the core strategy is important, as that is for the longer term.

Joan Tebbutt,

Chairman of the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group