A campaign to safeguard greenbelt at a Northumberland town looks set to end in victory - but only temporarily.
Residents and politicians at Hexham had fought Northumberland County Council proposals to remove the protective status from land West of the town, to allow it to be developed for housing or employment use.
The authority has now agreed to propose that the site should remain as greenbelt, but only until 2031, with it having safeguarded the land for housing development beyond then.
The news has been given a cautious welcome by campaigners.
The Shaws Farm site, between the B6531 and the B6305, was earmarked in a previous version of the county council’s core strategy for removal from the greenbelt, to allow hundreds of new homes and employment development.
Opposition was voiced by residents who set up the Protect Hexham Green Belt action group and an online petition, Hexham Civic Society and then county councillor for the town Derek Kennedy.
And in the new version of the strategy, the opposition has been heeded to an extent, with the council now proposing that the site remains greenbelt.
However, that is only until 2031, the end of the period the core strategy will be in place.
The council is “safeguarding” the site for housing development beyond the plan period.
The need for additional employment development to be included within this safeguarded area will be informed by results of a further study.
Numbers of housing proposed for the town are also meanwhile proposed to be reduced, from 1,000 to 720.
The authority does however propose release of five small sites on the edge of Hexham for housing development, and of some land for employment use, with the extent and location to be determined in the next version of the strategy based on results of the further study.
Hexham Conservative MP Guy Opperman said: “As a well known campaigner to protect our greenbelt myself I would rather no land lost its greenbelt protection.
“However it is fair to say that it is better the Shaws’s Farm site is protected from development for the next 20 years than for it to be built on immediately.
“The fact we have been able to change the council’s policy for this site in Hexham is a victory for campaigners, even it is not exactly what we would have liked.”
He added: “The county council’s plan is far from perfect and I am very disappointed with what is being proposed in Ponteland in particular, but we have achieved major success for Hexham in both bringing down the number of houses they propose for our greenbelt and protecting the Shaws Farm site for the lifetime of the council’s plan.”
Conservative county councillor for Hexham Cath Homer added: “I retain specific concerns about some of the smaller sites the council has identified, especially in the East End.”
The latest version of the strategy explains that following opposition to the proposed removal of the Shaw’s Farm site from the greenbelt, further work was undertaken.
This resulted in the housing numbers being reduced.
It also saw the extent of land currently within the greenbelt, proposed to be developed within the plan period being “significantly reduced,” and a need to identify safeguarded land for beyond then.
The document says: “The preferred approach and the proposed amendments to the greenbelt boundary for Hexham will allow for the sustainable expansion of the settlement, plus additional safeguarding land for future development at least for the equivalent of an additional plan period.”