Figures published recently by Northumberland County Council show that the Council wants to build thousands of extra houses throughout the county, mainly by reducing the size of the Green Belt around many of the towns and villages in the rural heart of Northumberland. The latest proposals show that NCC want to build over 11,500 more houses in addition to the government’s suggested total of 12,700. That is over 90% more than the total the government reckons we need. If these plans are accepted, then Northumberland will get more than 24,000 extra houses over the next fifteen years.

Two questions:

  • First, do we need 24,000 extra houses in Northumberland?
  • Second, if we do, where are they going to be built?

We know that there is a great shortage of social and affordable housing throughout the county, but you wouldn’t know that from the hundreds of commuter and executive houses built by the volume house-builders. They have successfully reduced the percentage of social and affordable housing in all of their schemes because they know that the County Council will not stand up to them and fight for our communities. They always claim that there is no brownfield land available for them to build on, hoping that no-one will notice they’ve been buying up huge swathes of Green Belt land for years which they then say is the only land available for development.

So why is the County Council proposing that we need 11,500 houses more than the government estimates? We do not know, because NCC has been unable to justify these figures, except to claim that we need these extra houses to stimulate economic growth in the county.

We agree that Northumberland needs to expand economically, but you do not do that simply by building houses. You stimulate economic growth by encouraging business and industry to invest in the county to create the jobs that people need. The county council has got its facts the wrong way round.

Houses follow jobs. Jobs do not follow houses.

Durham County Council is only one of many local authorities that have had their strategic plans rejected by the Planning Inspectorate because they have failed to understand this basic fact of economic life. These excessive housing figures, plucked out of thin air, show that Northumberland County Council hasn’t learnt from the failures of others. It’s time they did, before their plans are also thrown onto the scrap-heap.

We believe that brownfield sites within Hexham should be developed before green field or green belt land is released to developers – these sites include several hectares at the ‘Bunker’ site on Alemouth Road, the former Workhouse site and infill sites throughout the town.

We believe that housing should predominantly be for local need proportionate to growth, not new commuter estates that will benefit the economy of urban Tyneside.

If you have a view on the above please make it known as soon as possible to your County Councillors and their officers.

To feed into the Local Plan consultation go to:

http://northumberland-consult.limehouse.co.uk/portal/planning/core_strategy/csmm

Visit http://www.savehexhamsgreenbelt.com/ for more information.

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The Core Strategy Full Draft Plan for Northumberland  will be available for you to view and comment between the following dates:

Start date: 12/12/14 00:00

End date: 11/02/15 23:59

The plan can be viewed here:

http://northumberland-consult.limehouse.co.uk/portal/planning/core_strategy/csfd

In Hexham several areas of land presently designated as Greenbelt is identified for deletion and allocation as housing sites, including further ribbon development at the east end of the town. A further large swathe of land ‘Shaw’s Farm’ at the west end of Hexham is identified for designation as ‘safeguarded’ land – that is, land protected from development until the end of the plan period (2031) but thereafter to be developed for housing/mixed use.

Extract from Draft Plan showing proposed deletion of greenbelt (buff and orange) - Crown Copyright.

Extract from Draft Plan showing proposed deletion of greenbelt (buff and dark orange) – Crown Copyright.

This land is presently protected by a Greenbelt designation which the draft plan proposes to delete. HCS objected to the initial draft and wished to see the greenbelt maintained as at present to preserve the setting of Hexham and to focus development on brownfield sites within the town. We felt that the ‘aspirational’ population targets desired by the County Council were excessive. HCS will be considering its own view and formulating a full response in the New Year. As ever, we would welcome the views and input of our members on this issue.

‘Drop in’ events with planning officers present will take place across Northumberland in the New Year. In Hexham these events will be: Thursday 8th January 1pm – 7.30pm Hexham Prospect House and on Saturday 24th January 10am – 2pm Hexham Prospect House.

To read online and comment: http://northumberland.limehouse.co.uk/portal/planning/core_strategy/csfd

E-mail PlanningStrategy@northumberland.gov.uk

Address: Planning and Housing Policy Team, Northumberland County Council, County Hall, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE61 2EF. Telephone 0845 600 6400

Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment – Notice of site assessment consultation 

Northumberland County Council is consulting on draft site assessments for future housing – the SHLAA.

In order to boost significantly the supply of housing, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires local planning authorities to prepare this document which:

  • Identifies sites with potential for housing;
  • Assesses how many dwellings may be accommodated on a site with potential for housing development; and
  • Assesses when sites are likely to be developed.
  • The information is available at http://www.northumberland.gov.uk/shlaa

A member of HCS Committee has taken a preliminary look at the sites suggested for Hexham. It seems particularly unfortunate that many infill sites have been considered “unsuitable” for housing, and the reason most frequently cited is the paucity of access. By ‘access’, the County Council is referring to ‘vehicular access’, and yet no such assessment is made of these same sites as to whether they are safe for pedestrian and cyclist access. It seems the SHLAA has been driven by developers’ desire to develop easy, out-of-town and greenbelt sites, and the County’s obsession with the car as the apparent only means of transport, when the size and nature of our historic market town make both cycling and walking easy and desirable.

For example, several central Hexham previously developed ‘brownfield’ sites are considered unsuitable because of the steep road and poor sightlines. Isn’t this true of most of the existing homes in the central core of Hexham? And yet people manage. These arguments seem bogus and designed to ensure that Hexham will continue to approve only greenfield ribbon development, biting into our greenbelt and making residents of the area more and more car dependent.

Even with the Police Station site, the statement suggests that the ‘access’ (read vehicular access) onto “busy” Shaftoe Leazes restricts development. And yet the Farmways site east of Hexham indicates “good direct access” – onto a 60mph road!

If you would like to have your say on the SHLAA, there is a form to download at the web address above, or phone the Planning Office at County Hall on 01670 623635 or 01670 623630 before Wednesday 24 September 2014.

A Different Class

MA Student’s ideas for greenfield and brownfield sites in Hexham

– Former Hexham Union Workhouse & Craneshaugh Greenfield Housing site

1st – 6th September 2014

Scott’s Cafe, Forum Cinema, Hexham

Following the approval of 122 new houses on the greenfield housing site at Craneshaugh, and the continued potential of the ‘brownfield’ former Hexham workhouse site on Dean Avenue, MA students at the University of Newcastle have looked afresh at both sites – presenting design concepts that challenge our expectations of how these important sites should be delivered. While the Craneshaugh site is already approved for housing following a planning application in 2013, it will be interesting to see what alternative concepts for a large greenfield site could look like.

You are cordially invited to visit the exhibition throughout its week. We are also holding a presentation and discussion of the work on Friday 5th September at 3pm where MA Urban Design Course Tutor Georgia Giannopoulou will summarise the student’s output and discuss the potential of these important sites.

Presentation and Refreshments

3pm Friday 5th September,

Scott’s Cafe, Hexham

free entry

HCS are sad to report that the 122 Craneshaugh ‘executive homes’ proposal for Craneshaugh, east end of Hexham, was approved unanimously and with little debate by the West Area Planning Committee on Wednesday. HCS Secretary Paul Wharrier spoke on behalf of HCS in objection to the scheme which is proposed by Hexham Auction Mart.  We highlighted the shortfall of affordable housing on the site and the prematurity of its release when brownfield sites within the town stand idle. Unfortunately, now this greenfield allocation has been soaked up, the greenbelt is now more vulnerable.

There was no debate from Councillors about the clear failure to develop brownfield sites in Hexham in preference to this premature greenfield release.  HCS supports the provision of well-designed new housing but wishes to see brownfield, sustainable sites within the town used in preference to greenfield sites. We are opposed to the deletion of the greenbelt as proposed in NCCs core strategy.

We urge members concerned about NCCs proposed deletion of the greenbelt around Hexham to make their views known to NCC as soon as possible. The deadline for comment is 31st December.

To make your views known to NCC email them at NCC, or see the Save Hexham’s Green Belt group’s site here.

Executive Homes for Hexham Green Fields?

Executive Homes for Hexham Green Fields?

As many of you will know the application for 122 new ‘executive’ houses on the greenfield site at Craneshaugh is to be brought before the West Area Planning Committee at Prospect House, 6pm this Wednesday 18th December. Reference: (Planning Application 13/01208/OUT; 112 dwellings, land south of Craneshaugh, Corbridge Road, Hexham)

Although this is on land allocated for housing dating from the Tynedale Local Plan, HCS and many others have objected to the proposal. Our grounds are primarily that the allocation was based on its being used as a ‘final site’ to satisfy local housing needs – to be used after brownfield sites within Hexham have been exhausted. This is clearly not the case and we feel that premature release of the site will give the green light to the opening up of green belt sites both at the east and western ends of the Town. The vulnerability of the green belt is discussed elsewhere on our site – see also today’s Journal article.

You can read our full objection to the 122 unit Craneshaugh scheme  here.

HCS is not adverse to new development, but unless the release of green field sites is restricted, brownfield sites within the town will not be developed. We point to the workhouse site as a sustainable location, right in the heart of Hexham, and with enough land area to accommodate the whole of Craneshaugh scheme, and the 28 unit greenbelt Housing association scheme which has been proposed for the site opposite the Arnold Clark Garage.

If you would like to make your views known on this please contact Northumberland County Council Officers or your Planning Committee members.

Hexham Exhibition 06 09 13Many thanks to those of you who were able to attend the excellent presentation by MA Urban Design Tutor Georgia Giannopoulou on Friday afternoon. With over thirty people attending the Scott’s Cafe was comfortably full and a lively discussion followed Georgia’s talk. Debate ranged across the issues of developing brownfield land and the historic interest of the 1830’s workhouse, to the intricacies of Co-Housing, a cooperative housing model which was part of the student’s design brief for the site. The exhibition will run until this Wednesday 11th so if you wish to see it do so soon!  Georgia’s powerpoint presentation (3mb) can be viewed here: Workhouse Presentation at Hexham 06 09 13.

HCS will continue to engage with site owners the Helen McCardle Care Trust and with Northumberland County Council to both protect the  historic workhouse buildings, and to encourage an imaginative scheme which will bring the buildings back into use. At around 4ha, the site could accommodate over 100 houses – largely displacing the need for the present ‘green field/green belt’ applications which are yet to be determined by NCC at the east end of Hexham.  Hexham Exhibition 06 09 13 (2)

Newcastle University has stated that they would love to run the same project next year. If the site remains undeveloped, we hope that NCC and HMCT can be actively brought into the project for the benefit of all.  Many thanks to Georgia, her students and her colleagues/fellow tutors for bringing this project about.