Stark warning over accolade for village

A NORTHUMBERLAND village should not follow in the footsteps of a neighbouring town, a community leader has warned.

A NORTHUMBERLAND village should not follow in the footsteps of a neighbouring town, a community leader has warned.

Rothbury, in the north of the county, has been touted as “the next Alnwick” in a national newspaper, with comparisons made between the former’s current situation and the latter’s prior to it being named the Best Place to Live in Britain by Country Life Homes magazine in 2002.

Alnwick was said to offer homes at low prices as well as offering a fantasy factor with the inclusion of its castle in Harry Potter films, strong schools and services, access to beautiful countryside, good commuting links and low crime rates.

A recent report in The Financial Times referred to Rothbury as “another Alnwick in-waiting,” insisting it boasts all the factors which won the town its accolade, as well as the bonus of continued growth.

But Steven Bridgett, who represents the village on Alnwick District Council, has warned that Alnwick is not an example that Rothbury should want to follow.

With a massive influx of people moving to Alnwick on the back of its new-found status, house prices in the town have increased 70% faster than the UK average over the past five years.

In turn, local people, particularly young families, have struggled to afford property in the town.

And Coun Bridgett, 20, who lives in the heart of Rothbury at Jubilee Crescent, is concerned that the same could happen in his village.

He said: “I am a fan of growth, I think it is a positive thing for the area, but I am concerned that with this article in the Financial Times there will be a huge influx. We can cope with a steady growth, but not a huge amount all at once.

“Rothbury cannot cope with a full population explosion. It has to be in line with upgrading services and amenities.”

Since 2000, planners have approved 220 applications for residential development within Rothbury, including major schemes at Whitton View, where 97 homes have been constructed with more to follow, and nine houses and 10 apartments at the old village mart.

The old cottage hospital is also in the process of being converted into seven flats.

The national report said the increase in property coming onto the market has led to a freeze on prices – which Coun Bridgett says is good for local people.

But he believes that the paper’s article will lead many house hunters to descend on Rothbury.

The councillor fears a repeat of what has happened in Alnwick, arguing local people will be priced out of the market.

He also says the village’s infrastructure must be improved in line with population growth.

Rothbury’s water pipes are between 70 and 80 years old and regularly leak, Coun Bridgett claims. Residents already struggle to park in the village centre, while Rothbury’s schools, doctors and dentists’ surgeries are running to capacity.

The councillor argued that those building houses in Rothbury should contribute towards improving its services.

Meanwhile, Coun Gordon Castle, county and district councillor for Alnwick, insisted high house fees are a price Rothbury will have to pay for its popularity. “It is like asking for fame without publicity. Unfortunately they go together. If Rothbury is such a great place to live, and I certainly think it is, inevitably it is going to have an effect on house prices,” he said.

“There is no gain without pain in my eyes, it brings prosperity to places like Rothbury and Alnwick, but the minus side is the effect on house prices.”

Coun Castle said local councils have measures in place to stop Rothbury expanding too rapidly.

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