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Saturday, 23 May 2015

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Tynedale: Figures are a flight of fancy, say Tories

PLANS to beef up Northumberland’s population by shipping in thousands of people from outside the county have been condemned by local Conservatives.

“Labour hopes of imposing a 10 per cent population increase on our county are fanciful in the extreme,” said Northumberland County Council’s Tory group leader, Coun. Peter Jackson.

He was giving his group’s formal response to the council’s core strategy consultation exercise, which indicated the county needed a housing boom to retain a population of working age.

Coun. Jackson said: “We feel that, on close inspection, the population figures used by the county council to justify its strategy just do not stand up.

“There is nothing to suggest that the actual population growth will be any more than the Government figures of 4.2 per cent from 2011 to 2031.

“Furthermore, the claims that increases in population will lead to economic growth have the argument completely the wrong way round.

“Basic economics and common sense dictate that business growth and job creation have to come first.”

Coun. Jackson claimed the Labour prescription seemed to condemn areas of the county, that had some of the highest levels of unemployment in the country, to even more competition for scarce jobs by shipping in thousands of extra people.

He added: “Labour seem to be quite happy to hack away at existing green belt protection for our towns and villages.

“There are no reasons given that will pass public scrutiny for this all out attack on green belt in our county.

“It is our view that significant sites for development remain on brown field and previously developed land.”

The Tories argued the suggested need for an extra 24,310 houses in the county was “in excess of need”.

On economic growth, the group said: “We feel the thrust of the document is based on the notion that the economy of the county would be revived by house building.

“However, we are not persuaded that new house building necessarily leads to sustainable and long-term local jobs, or that adding to population growth automatically creates an increase in sustainable jobs.”

The Tories supported the overall percentage target of 30 per cent as the element of affordable housing within new building development, and retained the long-held view that the council must do more to encourage the building of social and affordable housing.

They also called for Northumberland Conservatives “positive support” for appropriate small business development in rural areas, including the expansion of existing local enterprises, farm diversification and assisting new local enterprises.