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Saturday, 02 August 2014

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Villagers seeing red over green belt homes plan

A BID by the Duke of Northumberland to build houses on green belt land in Tynedale is facing a vehement backlash from residents.

Dozens of objections have been lodged against plans by the duke’s development arm, Northumberland Estates, to build 20 homes, to the north of Piper Road in Ovingham.

The application will cement widespread fears that developers are acting swiftly to take advantage of a loophole in current planning policy.

Northumberland County Council is far from finalising its crucial Core Strategy document, meaning those behind schemes that are refused permission could claim, on appeal, that out-of-date guidance had been used.

Among those to object to the latest plans, which are likely to include 50 per cent affordable housing, is Ovingham Parish Council.

Numerous residents from nearby areas have also voiced opposition on grounds ranging from green belt concerns, to inadequate drainage, flooding and impact on the natural environment.

In a letter to planners, J. Kennedy said: “This land is part of the established Northumberland green belt, which is supposed to be a NO GO AREA for any development, which our local MP is also opposed to being released for development.

“How is it possible to submit a full planning application on land in the green belt?”

Objector Tony Richardson, meanwhile, argued such a development could have a catastrophic effect on wildlife, and cause parking and traffic problems, since Ovingham Bridge was “a joke at best and, at worst, an accident waiting to happen.”

“The loss of open space, fields and trees combined with foliage would be something we feel would be disastrous and not at all in the interests of anyone, apart from the few that will benefit from the money generated from tearing this beautiful landscape to pieces.

“We as a neighbourhood will fight tooth and nail against this proposed development.”

Mr and Mrs Colin Hirst likewise argued against the application on the grounds that development would hinder the absorption of rain water.

This is a concern close to many residents’ hearts as properties there were badly hit by flooding in June last year.

Steve Lowe, from the Northumberland Wildlife Trust also voiced concern, saying: “The open character of the area creates a haven for a range of wildlife.

“Of particular concern would be any pressures put on bat populations as this area is recognised as a forage area for bats, but the area is also used by a range of bird species, including owls and also hosts a brown hare population.

“Due to the unimproved nature of the site, it is likely that it also contains interesting flora.

“We have received reports of great crested newts in the area, although we have been unable to verify these.”

The site, owned by the Northumberland Estates, consists of two adjoining fields, which would be built over with four two-bed bungalows, eight two-bed houses and eight three-bed houses.

It is anticipated that 10 of the units would be classed as affordable, helping tackle what Northumberland Estates planning statement describes as “a significant affordability problem in Ovingham”.

This assertion was based on a housing needs statement dating back to August 2006, when 274 people on the Northumberland County Council waiting list had requested Ovingham as their preferred place of residence.

At the time of the report, there were 107 affordable houses in Ovingham, all of which were socially rented, with no low cost home ownership available.

The housing needs statement suggested 24 affordable units were required over a five year period.

A spokesman for Northumberland Estates said: “There will be no demonstrable harm on adjacent residents or the local environment should this application be approved.

“The scale, massing and design of the proposals fits in with the surroundings and are of a traditional design which does not look out of character.

“Nor does it have any impact in terms of the surrounding landscaping or location.”

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