D-Day in greenbelt fight for Northumberland towns

Northumberland is facing D-day in the fight for its greenbelt over the coming months, county MP Guy Opperman has said

Protesters from Darras Hall at Birney Hill Farm, where a large housing development in proposed
Protesters from Darras Hall at Birney Hill Farm, where a large housing development in proposed

Northumberland is approaching “D-day” in the battle over the future of its greenbelt, a county MP has claimed.

Hexham Conservative Guy Opperman said county residents fighting housing schemes and local authority plans to delete sections of greenbelt to make way for residential and business development would win or lose in the next few months.

He spoke of his hope that one particular housing bid at Ponteland would be defeated and hit out at “large scale and unnecessary incursions into the greenbelt” being proposed by local council bosses at that community and at Hexham.

The MP’s words were last night supported by those fighting green belt deletion at Hexham who claimed local authority leaders were using “grossly inflated” housing figures to justify the move.

The Journal has previously reported how Northumberland County Council is proposing to delete swathes of greenbelt at towns and villages across its boundaries, to allow for the house building and creation of employment sites it says are needed to cope with a forecasted population rise of 10% by 2031.

At Hexham, the authority is proposing to delete greenbelt west of the town, between the B6531 and the B6305, to allow the building of 600 homes and business development.

Residents have formed an action group to fight the plan.

Council bosses are also anticipating 750 homes be built at Ponteland, in a draft version of their local development framework which has been out to consultation.

Meanwhile, developer Lugano is seeking planning permission to build 280 homes on greenbelt at the settlement, along with provision of office, retail, educational or community facilities and a community farm.

The move saw 4,310 letters submitted to the 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.

Lugano saw its bid refused by the county council. The developer has appealed the council’s refusal and requested a public inquiry.

And in the case of the greenbelt deletion, the MP says he has been told the final draft of the local development framework will be published on July 29.

Mr Opperman, who is secretary of the Greenbelt protection group of MPs in parliament, said: “We really are nearing D-day for Northumberland’s greenbelt.

“The next few months will see the climax in our battle to save greenbelt around our towns. Quite

frankly we win or lose between now and the late summer.”

The MP said he was “very hopeful” Lugano’s appeal would fail. On the development framework, Mr Opperman added “campaigners fighting these large scale and unnecessary incursions into the greenbelt in my constituency have my unwavering support.”

The MP’s words were backed by Roger Higgins, chairman of Hexham Civic Society, which is opposing the proposed deletion there.

“The housing figures for Hexham are grossly overinflated of what natural development of Hexham should be. We would also like to see brownfield sites in Hexham developed in advance of the release of further greenfields.”

The county council failed to provide a comment while Lugano declined.

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