Controversial plans to build homes on green belt in Northumberland are being recommended for refusal - but the developer is already planning an appeal.
Developer Lugano’s bid to site 280 homes on farmland at Ponteland goes before Northumberland County Council planners next week.
Opponents last night welcomed the stance of the council’s officers while the developer voiced its disappointment and said it would appeal if the refusal went through.
Lugano is seeking outline planning permission for the development at Birney Hill Farm, with the proposal covering the demolition of some buildings, plus provision of office, retail, educational or community facilities and a community farm. It includes provision for 25% affordable housing - 70 dwellings.
However, 4,310 letters have been submitted in opposition to the choice of site, with objections also lodged by the Ponteland Green Belt Group, Ponteland Town Council, Ponteland Civic Society and Darras Hall Estates Committee.
Newcastle International Airport, the Environment Agency, the county council’s strategic housing, conservation, public protection and flood management departments, are also objecting, along with rival developers Persimmon Homes and Banks Property - which is working on plans for 500 homes at Clickemin Farm, east of Ponteland.
The council was sent 487 letters of support.
The authority’s west area committee held a site visit earlier this month, with hundreds of objectors in attendance, before a public meeting was held in Ponteland, with over 400 people present.
The committee will make a decision at its meeting at Hexham auction mart next Wednesday at 6pm.
Planning officers are recommending the scheme be refused, claiming it would “represent inappropriate development in the green belt” and would result in an “inefficient use of valuable green belt land” with less than 3.5 dwellings per hectare proposed.
They add that the development “on open and undeveloped farmland which lies outside of the defined settlement boundary for Ponteland would result in a significant urbanisation of the site and demonstrable harm to the landscape character of the open countryside.”
Officers claim Lugano has failed to provide sufficient information about the likely impact of aircraft noise and had failed to demonstrate that surface water could be disposed of with without increasing flood risk elsewhere.
Last night, Alma Dunigan, of the green belt group, said: “We are pleased but that recommendation has to go to the councillors on the planning committee and it is them that will be making the decision. It is a very difficult application.”
Lugano has previously said the £96m development will create 672 construction jobs and a further 228 in the region.
Last night, it said: “We are clearly disappointed with the recommendation, but not surprised.
“We had hoped that the council would recognise the many merits of the proposal and the real benefits it brings to Ponteland and Darras Hall, not least by making a significant contribution to what the authority acknowledge is an urgent need for new housing.
“The principle of green belt release is acknowledged by the council and while we understand the sensitivities locally around this, it is regrettable that they appear to have placed disproportionate weight on the views of objectors rather than considering the wider issue of housing needs.”
The company added: “We will have no alternative but to appeal the decision in the event that the application does not receive the council’s support.