HUNDREDS of people fighting green belt development plans around their town have turned out to help step up the campaign of opposition.
More than 300 supporters gave up their free time to help deliver information packs to every home in the Ponteland area as the battle to protect the surrounding countryside intensifies.
About 5,000 packs were distributed to residents in Ponteland, Darras Hall and nearby communities such as Stamfordham and Medburn in a mass delivery organised by the Ponteland Green Belt Group.
The packs contain information and guidance – including a sample letter of opposition and an envelope addressed to the county council – to help local people who want to submit an objection to Lugano’s application to build 280 homes at Birney Hill Farm, next to Darras Hall.
Lugano, which owns the 2,500-acre Dissington Estate at Ponteland, has promised a community benefits package totalling £16m if the Birney Hill scheme goes ahead.
At the same time, the Banks Group is working on plans for 500 homes at Clickemin Farm, east of Ponteland.
Yesterday Alma Dunigan, who chairs the green belt group, said it had been absolutely unbelievable to see more than 300 supporters turn out on Sunday to deliver the packs.
“Ponteland residents are immensely passionate about keeping the green belt intact and see this, and other large-scale developments on this designated area, as totally unnecessary. I have identified 234 available dwellings for sale within a radius of three miles of Ponteland, with a maximum price tag of £250,000.
“If we have this number now I can’t see the logic in having more. On Sunday we delivered information packs to every home in the civil parish of Ponteland. It is now up to local residents to make their views known to the county council.”
It is likely to be several months before the Banks Group submits a planning application for its Ponteland Garden Village scheme at Clickemin Farm.
Yesterday the company’s environment and community director Mark Dowdall said: “No planning application is imminent and we have only started a process of ongoing dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders. We are very committed to bringing forward proposals because we believe there is a need for new housing in Ponteland.
“However, our preference is to work with the county council on its emerging local development plan. That is with the twin proviso that the plan is brought forward in a timely fashion and acknowledges the need for housing.”
Lugano says it will gift 97 acres of land to the Ponteland community, to be managed by a trust owned and run by local people, with access to funding of between £8m and £10m.
It has also pledged to commit a further £6m to pay for improvements to local schools, education and transport, and fund other community benefits.
The company has described the package as by far the largest private offering of community benefit anywhere in the United Kingdom.