Ponteland Greenbelt Group to stage silent protest over Birney Hill homes

Residents fighting a massive housing plan on green belt land in Northumberland are today to stage a protest

Ponteland residents look at the proposed plans for 280 houses at Birney Hill
Ponteland residents look at the proposed plans for 280 houses at Birney Hill

Residents fighting a massive housing plan on green belt land in Northumberland are today to stage a protest.

Tyneside-based Lugano has applied for planning permission to build 280 homes at Birney Hill, in the green belt around Ponteland and Darras Hall.

The project is a £96m development which it says will create 672 construction jobs and a further 228 in the region.

A total of 4,300 objections have been lodged with Northumberland County Council.

Members of its planning committee will today stage a site visit prior to determining the application, with a public meeting lined up this Wednesday.

And the Ponteland Greenbelt Group has organised for its members, and the general public, to attend the site visit to show councillors the strength of feeling.

The group will be displaying banners and placards at the site visit, which is expected to take place at around 12.15pm.

A group spokeswoman last night said: “It is a silent presence.

“Obviously we understand that we can not have conversation or anything but it is a way of showing them that we still feel the way as we did before.

“Considering there was 4,300 objections, it is quite significant.

“If you take the population of Ponteland of 11,000, that is an astronomical percentage return.

“We are not militant, we are exercising a democratic right that we have to express our feelings.

“We do not have to do it in an explosive manner. You can do it in a quiet manner.

“We need in a respectful manner to let those councillors who are on the planning committee know the depth of feeling.”

The public meeting, organised by the county council, takes place at Ponteland High School at 6pm.

The spokesman said the group is seeking to establish numbers likely to attend on behalf of the authority, with 150 confirmed by Saturday morning but that number is expected to exceed 200.

It is also accepting questions which it will pass them to the council to arrange for suitable answer to be given at the meeting.

The group has delivered leaflets around the parish to publicise the meeting, to which Lugano has been invited.

The spokesman added: “This application came at the spring of this year, people may have forgotten.

“Some may have thought the whole thing has gone away. Others may have thought it has gone through.

“Our supporters are extremely strong. We have kept them up to date as and when we have had information.”

No-one was available at Lugano for comment yesterday.

The company is not the only firm seeking to develop on green belt in the area.

Banks is working on plans for 500 homes at Clickemin Farm, east of Ponteland.

The spokeswoman said: “If one development was allowed would there be another one to follow.

“This is a Ponteland voice. It is not one part of Ponteland against another part. We are totally united.”

Residents fighting the two schemes have previously been backed by local Conservative councillors and Hexham MP Guy Opperman.

In July, he raised their concerns with planning minister Nick Boles at the first meeting of a new cross-party group of MPs set up to ensure the protection of green belt land across the UK and give objectors a voice.

Lugano planning director Scott Munro said at the time: “There is not one local authority in the North East which is not releasing green belt land for development.

“That is because we don’t have enough alternative options on other land that is not green belt.

“I would ask Mr Opperman to come up with some credible alternative brown field sites which can be developed for housing, instead of simply saying where we can’t build.”

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