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Friday, October 26, 2012

Demonstrators see Red over Green Belt Plans

Saying no: Chairman of Ponteland's Green Belt Group Alma Dunigan
led the demonstration against Green Belt development.

THE fight against Green Belt development in Ponteland shows no sign of flagging, as impassioned residents turned out en masse to attend a demonstration over the plans.

The town, known for its peaceful and picturesque character, is facing the prospect of 500 homes being built either side of the A696 by Banks Property and a further 280 houses at the Birney Hill area.

Lugano Group, which is currently running consultations on the latter scheme, also owns considerable land on the Dissington Estate, leading some to believe this proposal could be the tip of the iceberg.

On Tuesday, as Ponteland Town Council’s planning committee prepared to discuss the group’s scoping report, over 150 residents gathered outside to make their opposition felt.

“This is to let Northumberland County Council, Ponteland Town Council and any developers who are thinking of coming to Ponteland know that we care passionately about retaining our Green Belt,” said Alma Dunigan, chairman of the Green Belt Group.

“It’s reassuring that everyone here shares the same point of view; Ponteland residents will never let you down.”

Among those gathered were Douglas and Marjorie Collender, who spoke of their worries about flooding and the strain on infrastructure, accusing the developers of putting profit before the needs of the community.

Another resident, Amanda Williamson, condemned the proposed developments as “money spinners”.

The protest comes as Lugano prepares to hold its fourth consultation event on the Birney Hill scheme – and the first detailing what the developer describes as the residents’ preferred layout.

Tomorrow, a master plan will go on display at Ponteland Memorial Hall, illustrating what Lugano calls “generous green landscaping”, with woodland and grassland surrounding the houses and new play areas incorporated into the scheme.

The developer would provide 60 affordable homes, as well as self-build plots and an office “hub”, while addressing concerns raised by residents and incorporating sustainable design principles.

On Tuesday, however, councillors highlighted potential problems with traffic volume, and questioned Lugano’s assertion that public transport was already adequate in the area.

“There are 280 houses, which would translate to a minimum of 600 car journeys a day,” said mayor Coun. Peter Cowey.

“That would have quite an impact and we don’t have the infrastructure for that.”

Noise and light pollution would also have to be considered carefully, as would surface water drainage and flood risk, given past incidents in the town.

“This is a critical situation,” said planning committee chairman Coun. David Butler.

Councillors also pointed out that there were currently 340 houses for sale in Pontleland, and 75 to rent, calling into question the need for a vast swathe of new properties.

And they noted that Northumberland County Council must seek professional, independent and properly considered judgements when considering such issues.

“My attitude would be: ‘It’s the Ponteland Green Belt; get off,” Coun. Cowey said.

Points raised during the discussion, including recommendations for additional issues Lugano should consider, will be sent to Northumberland County Council soon.

Tomorrow’s consultation event, at which experts will be on hand to answer questions, will run from 11am to 4pm.