People fighting to protect cherished green belt land from the threat of development will have a powerful voice in the corridors of power, a North East MP claims.
Hexham’s Guy Opperman – who strongly opposes controversial plans for house building in the countryside surrounding Darras Hall and Ponteland – has fired off another warning shot to the would-be developers.
The Conservative has joined other MPs to form an all-party Parliamentary group dedicated to the protection of the UK’s green belt.
He says he hopes the new lobbying group will allow people defending the green belt to be “heard louder and at the very top of Government.”
Mr Opperman is supporting local residents who are campaigning against plans by the Lugano Group and Banks Developments to build almost 800 new homes on green field sites in Darras Hall and Ponteland.
Tyneside-based Lugano has applied for planning permission to build 280 homes at Birney Hill, in a £96m development which it says will create 672 construction jobs and a further 228 in the region. Banks is working on plans for 500 homes at Clickemin Farm, east of Ponteland.
Yesterday Mr Opperman praised campaigners in the village, saying they are standing up for local residents and green spaces against the “big shot developers and their pockets of cash.”
And he said the battle will intensify further in the autumn when the county council will produce reports on housing need and potential future development sites as part of its new core strategy planning blueprint.
“People fighting to protect the green belt are pillars of our local community. They realise we are simply guardians of our beautiful land, and we must protect what green space we have.
“There is no doubt in my mind that defending our precious countryside from big developers like Lugano, who are simply looking for a quick buck, is the right thing to do. Green belt campaigners in my constituency have my full and unwavering support, and I hope this new group will help ensure they have support in Westminster too.
“I will be scrutinising every move of the county council and the developers as we draw closer to the final core strategy document. I will happily lead this fight from the front.”
Earlier this year more than 300 supporters of the Ponteland Green Belt Group handed out 5,000 information packs to local homes in support of its campaign against the building plans.
Lugano’s proposals include a pledge to 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 said it will commit a further £6m to pay for improvements to local schools, education and transport, and fund other community benefits.
The company described the package as by far the largest private offering of community benefit anywhere in the UK.
Mr Opperman has claimed green belt land at Ponteland is under threat because of the county council’s slow progress on completing its local plan - rather than the Government’s new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).