Plans to build affordable housing on green belt land in a Northumberland town are facing opposition.
A planning application for 26 low cost homes on designated green space at Hexham is going before county councillors this week.
It has attracted objections from a council, civic society and 14 residents, with claims the homes would be an “intrusion” into the green belt and that there are better sites available for the affordable homes.
But county council officers are recommending the application be approved.
The application from Newcastle-based social landlord Two Castles and Durham builders Esh Group is for homes on land opposite the Arnold Clark car dealership on Corbridge Road.
A report produced by officers at Northumberland County Council says that the site is a greenfield site within green belt, and is also designated strategic green space.
The proposal has received objections from Hexham Town Council, Hexham Civic Society and the residents, on a number of grounds.
Society chairman Roger Higgins last night said: “This is an intrusion into the Hexham green belt which was only established in 1999 and which is meant to be a permanent protection for Hexham.
“We believe there are extensive brownfield sites within the town which the county council is not prioritising, and which by releasing greenfield sites, will remain undeveloped.”
The application also faces an objection from Network Rail, which says insufficient information has been provided to give assurance that there will be no detrimental impact or increase of risk of landslides to the Newcastle to Carlisle railway line beside the site.
The county council’s housing department has nevertheless supported the application, claiming the land is a “desirable and sustainable” location for affordable homes.
The authority’s west area planning committee is being recommended to approve the application at its meeting at Hexham’s Prospect House council chamber at 6pm on Wednesday.
Planning officers say “there are no other suitable locations within Hexham outside the green belt which would be available and viable.”
They add: “The character and openness of the green belt would not be significantly eroded due to its location to the north of the busy Corbridge Road (A695) and directly opposite a commercial unit and residential dwellings to the south.”
Two Castles could not be contacted for comment yesterday.
Documents submitted with the planning application say: “Esh Property Services, in partnership with Two Castles Housing Association, wish to provide much needed affordable housing to assist with the recognised shortfall within Northumberland and within Tynedale in particular. The design should demonstrate best practice for the provision of affordable housing to meet current national, regional and local policies, in accordance with Homes and Communities Agency and local planning authority requirements.”
The applications comes as residents are fighting county council proposals to delete green belt west of the town, between the B6531 and the B6305, to allow the building of 600 homes and employment development.
It also follows the granting of outline planning permission last month to Hexham Auction Mart for 122 houses to be built on a greenfield site beside Craneshaugh, also on Corbridge Road.