A battle over controversial plans to build homes on green belt is to be resurrected after the developer appealed.
Lugano has confirmed it has lodged a formal challenge against Northumberland County Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for its 280 homes on farmland at Ponteland.
The developer last night revealed it had requested the appeal be heard at a public inquiry.
Lugano had been seeking outline planning permission for the development at Birney Hill Farm, with the proposal covering the demolition of some buildings, plus provision of office, retail, educational or community facilities and a community farm.
However, 4,310 letters of opposition were submitted to Northumberland County Council in opposition.
Newcastle International Airport, the Environment Agency, the county council’s strategic housing, conservation, public protection and flood management departments, also objected, while the council was sent 487 letters of support.
Planning officers recommended the scheme be refused, claiming it would “represent inappropriate development in the green belt”.
The authority’s west area committee unanimously voted to refuse at a meeting in October, to the delight of residents.
During the meeting councillors raised issues over surface water and increased flood risk, problems with Newcastle Airport, as well as the risks of the site being a foot and mouth burial ground. At the time, the company indicated that it would be appealing.
It has now submitted its challenge and confirmed it is seeking a public inquiry.
Company planning director Scott Munro said: “The appeal has been lodged, it will have to follow through its course. We will have to wait for the planning inspectorate organisation to decide the timeframe for he appeal.
“Everything will come out through the process of the inquiry we are requesting.”
Mr Munro said it was a decision for the planning inspectorate whether an inquiry would take place.
Opponents of the scheme said they were ready to do battle again.
Peter Jackson, county councillor for Ponteland South with Heddon: “Make no mistake I will fight this proposed development at Birnie Hill all the way. It is regrettable that Lugano have decided to appeal a planning decision which was determined by the county council on firm grounds. The fact that these developers are willing to throw huge sums of money at this still does not make it acceptable to concrete over our valued green belt areas. Residents are united against this unwanted destruction of green spaces.
“The green belt has been designated for good reasons to protect the identity of our community and to prevent urban sprawl which, in this case, is coming from the direction of Newcastle. I will do everything in my power to ensure that this appeal fails in every respect.”
And Alma Dunigan of the Ponteland Green Belt Group said: “Ponteland Greenbelt Group is not anti development, just against development in the green belt - it is there for a purpose to stop urban sprawl.
“We are not surprised by Lugano registering an appeal with the Inspectorate, even though they only just met the deadline, as an appellant it is their right to make such an appeal if their feel they have grounds for re-consideration.
“The Greenbelt Group are not put off by an appeal, whether it is a public inquiry or a hearing we will have to wait and see. In the meantime, we will be considering our options with our supporters over the coming weeks.”
Mrs Dunigan said the issue would be discussed at the green belt group’s AGM on May 16, which is being held at the Memorial Hall in Ponteland.