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Friday, 22 May 2015

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Ponteland hit by plan for another 260 homes

YET more new houses are being planned on green belt land in beleaguered Ponteland.

A new application to build 263 houses on the Northumbria Police headquarters site on the outskirts of the village was lodged this week.

This comes on top of existing plans to build 50 homes on the Care Village site immediately next door, while elsewhere in the village, developers Lugano are planning 280 homes at Birney Hill, and the Banks Group 500 new homes either side of the A696.

The latest application to build on the police headquarters site off North Road has been lodged by police and crime commissioner Vera Baird.

It follows two previous applications on the site, for 147 and 150 homes, which were never followed through.

Agents for Mrs Baird said the new outline application would meet a clearly identified need for new housing in Ponteland – and was in line with Government policy.

The site has had various uses over the years, being built on in 1902 to provide a children’s home, before becoming a teacher training college in 1962.

The Police took occupation of the site in 1982 and since then its planning history has been solely related to Northumbria Police uses.

However, the site is now regarded as surplus to police requirements, even though it houses a communications centre, a range of training facilities, administration and support services, public order training and kennels with dog training facilities.

The first attempt to cash in on the site as a desirable housing location came 14 years ago, when an application was made by the then police authority for the redevelopment of the site.

The idea was to construct a new headquarters building to the south-east corner of the site and use the rest to build some 147 homes.

The application was withdrawn in 2004.

Plans to create a new headquarters were revived in 2008, when a new application was submitted which again involved the construction of a new headquarters building, as well as the construction of around 150 new houses, along with the conversion of existing buildings on the site to residential use.

Planning permission was granted, subject to the provision of affordable housing.

Negotiations on those matters were never concluded, however, and that application remains undetermined.

The scrapping of the police authority in favour of crime commissioners has resulted in Mrs Baird revisiting the site and coming up with an even more ambitious scheme.

She wants to retain a police communications centre and command suite on the site, but relocate the remaining activities to other sites within its estate.

The Ponteland site is, therefore, largely surplus to requirements, and Mrs Baird is keen to see it put to good use.

Her application is for the retention of the Police Northern Communications Centre and the construction of up to 263 dwellings with associated access, infrastructure and open space.

Mrs Baird’s agents, Manchester-based consultants Lambert Smith Hampton, acknowledged in a statement to Northumberland County Council’s west area planning team that the site is within the green belt.

But they point out that it has already been substantially developed over the years.

In addition, the principle of redevelopment of the site has already been established through the resolution to grant planning permission for 150 homes in 2008.

The agents argue: “The policy position has not changed since that resolution was taken.

“If anything, the national planning policy framework presents greater opportunity for limited in-filling and redevelopment at the site.

“The development proposed will meet design, density, heritage and conservation protection criteria and presents no conflict with the purpose of designating the land as green belt.”

They contend that the need to provide additional land for housing in Northumberland – particularly in the former Castle Morpeth area – is a crucial consideration.

They claim: “The county council’s report setting out its five-year supply of housing sites from 2013 to 2018 clearly identifies a shortfall in deliverable sites, notwithstanding the number of potential dwellings with planning permission.

“The police headquarters site does not appear in that report.

“However, it could contribute significantly towards plugging the gap in deliverable sites over the next five years.

“The lack of a deliverable supply of housing sites and the contribution this site could make are very significant material considerations.

“There is a strong presumption in favour of granting permission for such sustainable development and permission should normally be granted without delay.”