Scope, scale and quality must be scrutinised

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May I correct a number of inaccuracies in last week’s front page story, headed Village housing scheme planned?

One: Netherton Park comprises 20 houses and is a hamlet and part of the parish of Stannington, which is a mile away. The plan envisages swamping this hamlet with 85 new executive homes (that is, four new houses for each existing dwelling).

Two: The plan does not identify any affordable housing; the weasel clause ‘subject to viability’ indicates this will not be the case.

Three: The site is not ‘currently vacant’, a children’s home, housing three children, is still active.

Four: The existing buildings – including the old school house that served part of the original North East Reformatory – will be demolished.

The building was probably designed by the renowned architect Edwin Lutyens, who also designed the Grade II bus shelters and Catraw Farm in Stannington.

Five: The trees and road shown in the photograph accompanying your article is captioned ‘Potential access boulevard’. The planning proposal identifies this narrow, tree-lined cul-de-sac as the primary route into the development both for construction vehicles and residential traffic, with the consequent removal of the trees.

I hope that when the proposals are studied by the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, Morpeth Town Council and Stannington Parish Council they will do some with a more critical mind than that shown by the writer of the piece.

I trust all those involved in the planning process in the Morpeth area will scrutinise the scope, scale and quality of what landowners and developers must currently regard as a free-market gold rush in the power vacuum left when there is a lack of strategic coherence in national planning policy.

Lacking any demonstrable data that proves housing need for this type of four/five bedroom residence, the current piecemeal solution is allowed to prevail.

Currently, or in the near future, there are plans to develop or extend sites at Netherton Park, St Mary’s Hospital (Stannington Park), Loansdean, Stobhill, St George’s, Northgate, Fairmoor, perhaps even County Hall, etc.

Without wishing to be political, the Government’s much-trumpeted localism agenda, which offers involvement of influence and responsibility to parish council level, lacks the resources to gather credible, objective data regarding housing need and will rely instead on subjective local opinion.

This will result in smaller communities – which lack strength in number – being dictated to by the majority voice in the parish that will be only too glad to displace any development from their own backyards.