Ponteland green belt at centre of Labour and Conservatives row

A public meeting to discuss plans for housing on green belt land in Ponteland saw Labour and Conservatives blame each other over a risk to its future

Residents from Darras Hall and Ponteland at the green belt housing meeting
Residents from Darras Hall and Ponteland at the green belt housing meeting

Ponteland was last night at the centre of a bitter green belt row as Labour and the Conservatives blamed each other for putting its future at risk.

Hexham Tory Guy Opperman has warned that Labour could seek to expand Newcastle’s borders with a “right to grow” if Ed Miliband wins in 2015.

The Tory MP said Labour’s new housing policy would strengthen the hand of developers and see villages such as Ponteland snatched up by Newcastle’s urban sprawl.

The claims were met with anger by Labour’s Newcastle leader Nick Forbes, who said he was astonished that a Conservative whose party was pushing through “damaging planning changes” could try to blame anyone else for “putting the green belt at risk.”

Labour has said that if it wins the next General Election it will give councils the power to challenge neighbouring authorities which “hoard” empty land rather than building on it.

Mr Opperman said there was a clear threat to Northumberland. Newcastle is currently finalising plans for 21,000 new homes, of which around 6,000 are earmarked for green belt.

 

Labour-led Northumberland is also setting out building plans, looking to allow 24,000 new homes, of which 2,100 will be green belt.

The MP said: “It would only be a matter of time before Newcastle applied for the right to grow and would no doubt forcibly tear up the green belt protections around settlements on its border such as Darras Hall.”

He added: “Labour’s policy shows this is the same old Labour Party. They would allow Labour councils to forcibly rip up green belt protection in neighbouring councils, while their new tax on planning permission would reduce housebuilding and discourage regeneration schemes.

Labour’s plans could spell the end for the special protection of places like Ponteland from become part of Newcastle’s urban sprawl.

“Labour’s right to grow policy is nothing more than a land grab. It would essentially override any local opposition in areas like mine. Their voice would not mean a thing. Labour’s green belt policy, to effectively hand control of Northumberland’s green belt to Newcastle Council is sheer madness.”

Newcastle’s Mr Forbes said his and other councils were being forced to set out new housing plans in order to prevent Mr Opperman’s party handing developers carte blanche to build where they wanted.

“This coalition Government has torn up many of the safeguards that protected the green belt. It is absurd to try and say Labour would be a threat to it. I think if Mr Opperman spent a bit more time in the North East he would see what is happening here.

“We are planning for 21,000 new properties the vast majority of which will be on brownfield land, despite his government making that more difficult by removing the financial support to do this.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer