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Sunday, 24 May 2015

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Tynedale: Tackle empty homes first – MP

BEFORE even contemplating building on the green belt, Northumberland County Council should tackle the scandal of the 5,500 homes currently standing empty in the county.

That was the message from Hexham’s MP Guy Opperman, who noted that 2,337 of the ghost properties had been empty for more than six months.

He said: “We need to forget scare stories about Hexham turning into Bournemouth and look at what they are doing in places like Kent instead.

“There the county council has taken a proactive approach to tackling the empty homes crisis and has made real progress.

“Northumberland County Council needs an action plan to get these homes back into use before it even considers building on the green belt.”

Mr Opperman pointed out that Kent County Council had provided help to bring 3,000 properties back into use and by using special loans a further 455 on top of that.

In Northumberland there had been little action and no real plan to change things.

He said: “It is too easy to start building on the green belt without first tackling empty homes and giving serious consideration to brownfield sites.”

Mr Opperman said he believed in what the green belt stood for – protecting the environment.

He went on: “It is too easy just to think about the fields, woodlands and hedgerows around our towns and villages as simply either development land or a nice view.

“These are living, breathing spaces. They are our green lungs.

“I have long tried to be environmentally friendly and the thought of losing large swathes of our wildlife, farm land, hedgerows and green space under tonnes of concrete and mortar is one I find deeply sad.

“We are the guardians of our beautiful land and we must protect what green space we have.

“Yes, there must be sustainable long-term growth, but it is at our peril if we rush into building on the greenbelt simply because it is the cheapest or easiest option.”