More than 2,100 homes will be built on Northumberland’s green belt as the council prepares for two decades of growth.
Plans going out for consultation across the county set out where some 24,000 new homes will be built in the years to come.
As part of those plans land across Hexham, Ponteland, Prudhoe and elsewhere will be removed from the green belt to clear the way for a new era of house building in the county.
Council officers say the green belt number is around 9% of the total number of houses to be built and is likely to come down if former developed sites are used, including the police headquarters site in Ponteland.
The moves have been condemned by Conservative politicians who say the Labour-controlled council is targeting the green belt in parts of the county where any outrage will not impact on Labour’s electoral fortunes.
Northumberland County Council has said the new homes are needed to meet a planned 10% population increase by 2031.
Conservative group leader Peter Jackson said there was “little evidence to support the council’s projected growth claims.”
He described an expectation of 750 new homes around Ponteland as “the biggest green belt breach” in the North East.
In Hexham the proposal is to plan for 900 new properties, of which 600 will be on land currently counted as green belt.
Local Tory MP Guy Opperman said he had concerns about the amount of green belt set to go, while supporting council plans to build on former hospital sites and other pieces of already developed land.
But, he added: “It does appear that our part of south and west Northumberland, and towns such as Hexham, Prudhoe, and Ponteland has been singled out to have their green belt protection disproportionately removed.
“I am uncertain why the county council has done this. It is a mystery. Especially when Labour is actually proposing increasing the green protection around places like Morpeth.
“Despite initially promising to reflect the Government’s commitment to safeguarding green belt protection the county council seems determined that big areas of the green belt in my community will be opened up to significant development. That’s a fight I personally am not about to give up on.”
Planning documents say the preferred option in Hexham is to allow for a settlement extension to the west, in a broad location between the B6531 and the B6305 to accommodate approximately 600 dwellingsand employment development.
Prudhoe sees 1,000 new homes built, of which 350 are in the town. Green belt protections could be removed from the hospital site which would see 650 homes built there. If this option is not followed the site will take 400 homes and then the council will look to the west of the town for further green belt changes.
To the north of the county Alnwick is earmarked for 1,000 new homes, though there are not green belt implications in the council’s core strategy.
There are 900 dwellings needed across Berwick, Spittal, Tweedmouth and East Ord.
A spokesperson for Northumberland County Council said: “Northumberland is predominantly a rural county and the availability of brownfield land is less than in many other authority areas across the UK. Since 2009 housing completions on brownfield land in Northumberland have been consistently over 60%. As a result there are a reducing number of viable previously developed sites available.
“Of the proposed 24,310 new housing units, 31% are proposed on brownfield sites and 69% on greenfield sites. Only 9% of those are proposed to be in the green belt, and this includes the previously developed sites of the Police HQ in Ponteland and the Prudhoe Hospital site.”
Residents, businesses and organisations across Northumberland will be able to express their views on the details between October 31 and January 2.