MORE than £25m will be spent to prevent thousands of houses being built on green belt sites, Newcastle Council last night confirmed.
City leaders have told The Journal they are set to reduce the amount of green belt land set to be handed over to developers for thousands of new homes.
Instead, following some of the biggest protests seen in Newcastle in recent years, council bosses will put together a fund to bring into use inner-city sites.
The move came to light after The Journal was shown documents confirming a retreat from the previously announced green belt building plans. The exact locations and numbers of houses now to be built on land along the edge of the city will be confirmed next week.
For now the council confirmed officers have been able “to identify more deliverable housing sites within the urban area over the plan period and so there is now a need for less development in green belt areas to meet identified housing needs.”
Last night the cash for brownfield sites was confirmed by Henri Murison, the Newcastle Council cabinet member seeing through the new core strategy in which the controversial plans are proposed.
Mr Murison said: “I am proud that the council administration has listened and will be investing more on building on brownfield sites, which is why we will be spending £25m over five years on housing in the city as part of a fund which we can further contribute to.”
However, his Liberal Democrat opponents have accused him and Labour council leaders of “mishandling the whole strategy” and of “unnecessarily worrying communities across the city”.
Former council leader David Faulkner added: “The right thing to do now would be to rebuild the entire strategy on the basis of more brownfield sites which they say they have now mysteriously discovered, and minimising development on green land. This was the Lib Dem approach and we have been proved right.
“We challenge them to demonstrate conclusively that there is any need to build upon the green belt itself at all.”
In a robust response, Mr Murison said much of the work followed on from previous Lib Dem policies. He added: “The reason more brownfield sites will be able to be developed now is because the council will be providing the necessary funding to bring more sites forward before 2030. If he had wanted to do all possible to avoid building on the green belt, he could have done it a year ago before this assessment was last done, but chose not to.”
Newcastle Council wants to build 21,000 homes as part of a long-term plan to “create more jobs and homes” – called the One Core Strategy.
Last night campaigners gave a cautious welcome to the news.
James Littlewood, director of the Natural History Society of Northumbria, said thousands had rightly backed efforts to save Gosforth Nature Reserve from plans to build almost 1,000 homes nearby.
He said: “We still have to see just what locations have been taken out, what will still be built where, but it is welcome to see that the council has listened to residents not just in Gosforth but those with concerns from across the city.
“What is pleasing is that this is pressure that has come from people who heard about this and got involved to stop it. From when we first heard about these plans to now we have seen a lot of ordinary people who don’t normally do this sort of thing come forward and say they share these objections and want to do something about it.”
Newcastle Council’s cabinet will meet on February 28 at 6.30pm to go over final and specific site plans.