Newcastle’s expansion into the green belt comes a step closer this week as the final consultation starts on house building plans.
Plans set to see villages extended and countryside land up to Northumberland encroached on have been finalised and are now set for the last moments of scrutiny before the Government has its say.
The consultation, the last chance for the public to comment before the Planning Inspectorate prepares a public examination, comes as green belt campaigners continue their opposition to the building plans.
Newcastle council’s Ged Bell, the councillor pushing through the 6,000 homes green belt plan, made clear the plans could not now be changed by the council.
He added a warning that failing to act would see Newcastle left at the mercy of housing developers, citing North Tyneside’s White House Farm decision as an example of how an unpopular scheme can be given Government go-ahead when councils do not have a plan in place.
The Labour councillor said: “We have to follow Government guidelines on this six-week consultation. We have to go through this, but it’s not a plan that changes now. 21,000 houses, only 30% are identified as meeting green belt build.
“14,000 jobs are linked to these plans, so obviously we want to get as many views as possible on this. There has been a lot of emphasis placed on this being house building, but this secures the future for the city, the jobs for this and the next generation, for people who are born and bred here and people who want to move to the city.
“It is very important we get this plan in place. We have recently seen that North Tyneside lost out over White House Farm because they did not have a plan in place. We ned the up to date plan in place to ensure we can coordinate building rather than handing over the city to ad hoc applications.”
He added: “What comes next is a place to comment on the details, a chance for people with evidence to say why they are against it. We hope when people see the full plan, they will agree with what we have done, we have been far wider in our consultation, more so than many other authorities.”
Campaigners fighting green belt plans say the White House Farm example does not directly apply, since it is on locally protected land but not green belt land, which has far stronger national protection.
Jill Burrell from the Tyneside group Cities for People, said they were organising their own consultation events to help people navigate the planning red tape.
“There’s a lot people have to do if they want to object, but we have worked with the council on running a series of events to make it easier to have your say. I think things went quiet on the green belt over the last couple of months, but we are prepared to rev this up now and fight it all the way.”
John Urquhart, an organiser who fought off plans to build next to Gosforth nature reserve, said a delay in getting a plan could be caused by the council “ignoring us in favour of developers.”
He added: “There’s a lot of opposition to this plan, we think a lot of it does not stand up to scrutiny in areas such as the predicted number of jobs to come or the population growth.
“The planning inspector may well agree with that, placing the city in a far more vulnerable position.
“It’s still quite possible that the city will go down with its plan. It needs to better reflect all views but the opportunity to do that has been taken away.”
The plan has to clear a full council meeting before a public examination next year. Meetings organised by opponents can be seen at http://www.nwgreenbelt.org.uk