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Monday, March 16, 2009

Housing Plans for Northumbria Police HQ Approved

PLANS for new Northumbria Police headquarters with 150 new homes in Ponteland have taken a major step forward.
The Police Authority's outline application was approved by Castle Morpeth Council's Development Services Committee despite concerns from 178 local residents, mainly about the increase in traffic and the road network not being able to cope.

A 12,000m² office block with a reception area, conference meeting rooms, training classrooms, staff welfare facilities and scientific support would be built on the South side of the current Force headquarters, which are accessed off North Road.

The surplus land would be released for residential use and a project office would also be built, with Northumbria Police saying most of the current buildings on site are no longer fit for purpose.

But at the meeting, resident Alan Mee, who has lived in North Road for 21 years, said: "I have seen new housing developments being built in this area of Ponteland which have had a significant effect on the traffic levels, and there are more in the pipeline including the former First School site in North Road.

"The transport measures proposed are by no means sufficient to stem the traffic and I believe we need to have a by-pass, or some kind of infrastructure to take traffic away from Ponteland, before such a scheme can be built."

A Transport Assessment was carried out and then revised following a review by Faber Maunsell Consultants on behalf of Northumberland County Council's Highways Authority.

It says that the change in Police shift patterns and the venue for training exercises will cause at least a 20 percent staff journey reduction that will largely offset the extra traffic caused by residents living in the new homes.

Head of Highways Policy Dick Fraser said this has resulted in the prediction of a net increase of 49 extra two-way movements during peak periods, which is less than one vehicle a minute.

"There will be issues with the A696 and North Road in any event because of natural traffic growth, and junctions in the area will be at capacity by 2012 so we will have to address this ourselves," he added.

"But as part of our conditions, a detailed Travel Plan must be carried out by the Police Authority to look at ways of reducing traffic levels and other modes of transport to the site including footway and cycleway improvements."

Transport issues are also part of a Section 106 agreement, which must be agreed in addition to conditions.
The draft arrangements for this section involves the payment of £150,000 for traffic management, £300,000 for a five-year funding of public transport and £240,000 for an access road, splays, footpath improvements and cycle route.

Ponteland resident and former councillor Sheila Campbell said she hopes part of this funding will involve a regular bus link to Morpeth, with just one service going to the town on a Wednesday at the moment.

The other parts of the Section 106 agreement are affordable housing, open space usage and management, public art, recycling, provision of a cafe/shop and nature conservation.

Councillors voted 13 for and none against to approve the application, with one abstention.

As it is outline, details of the layout, scale, appearance, access and landscaping of the development need to be approved by the local planning authority.
Source: Morpeth Herald