Battle lines drawn ahead of Ponteland green belt homes inquiry

Battle lines have been drawn ahead of an inquiry into plans for hundreds of homes on green belt at Ponteland

Protesters from Darras Hall at Birney Hill Farm, where a large housing development in proposed
Protesters from Darras Hall at Birney Hill Farm, where a large housing development in proposed

Battle lines have been drawn ahead of a public inquiry into plans for hundreds of homes on a Northumberland green belt.

Developer Lugano has claimed its bid for 280 homes at Ponteland would bring £13m worth of benefits and that the alternative is “more of the same bland, high density developments with little or nothing being offered back.”

Ahead of the inquiry which begins on Tuesday, the company says “services and facilities will remain under pressure creating further problems and resentment” if its plans are turned down.

Yet a local action group which is fighting the scheme has claimed it would “change the special and unique characteristics of our community.”

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

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.

However, 4,310 letters of opposition were submitted to Northumberland County Council in opposition.

Newcastle International Airport, the Environment Agency, the county council’s strategic housing, conservation, public protection and flood management departments, also objected, while the Ponteland Green Belt Group has also opposed the plans.

The council was sent 487 letters of support.

Planning officers recommended the scheme be refused, and the county council’s west area committee unanimously voted in line with that advice at a meeting in October 2013.

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Lugano appealed last May and requested a public inquiry.

Speaking ahead of the inquiry, Lugano Developments chairman Richard Robson has spoken of the benefits its scheme would bring.

He said: “The scheme will inject some £13m into long-term benefits for local people, supporting and enhancing infrastructure as well as delivering much-needed affordable homes.”

Mr Robson issued a warning of what would happen if the application is not approved.

“Unless this opportunity is taken, only one thing will result.

“More of the same bland, high density developments with little or nothing being offered back.

Protestors from Darras Hall at Birney Hill Farm, where a large housing development in proposed
Protestors from Darras Hall at Birney Hill Farm, where a large housing development in proposed
 

“Services and facilities will remain under pressure creating further problems and resentment.

“That simply is not good enough for Ponteland or the North East.”

Alma Dunigan, of the green belt group - which has been granted rule six status at the inquiry - meaning it is one of the main parties, said: “This type of development will change the special and unique characteristics of our community.

“Green belt is precious, once it is gone - it’s gone for ever.”

The inquiry takes place at the Newcastle Falcons’ Kingston Park rugby ground from 10am on Tuesday and is expected to last three weeks.

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