Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Future of Northumberland: Core Strategy

The County Council has recently begun its consultation on its preferred options for housing, employment, and the green belt in the proposed Core Strategy. All parish councils will be submitting responses, but individual residents are encouraged to submit their views too.

You can find all the consultation documents at http://northumberland-consult.limehouse.co.uk/portal/planning/core_strategy/cspo2?tab=files. Be warned, there are quite a few to look at, but the County Council wants representations in response to the 47 specific questions in the document "Northumberland Local Plan

It is all a bit daunting to wade through, especially the supporting documents that outline the statistical methodolody and underlying assumptions on which all the growth forecasts are based. However, I encourage everyone to at least tackle the Core Strategy Preferred Options Stage 2 Consultation Document October 2013.pdf  document and give their views on as many of the questions as possible.

In that document you will find proposals for significant housing development and changes to the county's green belt. It is right, in my opinion, to review green belt provision to see if it is still meeting the needs for which it was originally established. However, I do have concerns over the planned changes and the rationale behind them.

Population growth

The documentation outlines several population growth forecasts which suggest we can expect, approximately, a 4%–6% increase in population. However, the preferred options document is basing its planned housing development on growth of nearer 12.3% for Central Northumberland which is the 'Delivery Area' in which Stocksfield is located. This is based on, it seems, a model that a large increase in housing supply will lead to a net increase in employment (beyond the jobs involved in house building). For details see the section titled "Growing the labour force - building more new homes" starting on page 35.

The document EB03 - Population and Household Forecasts - Small area level - Published May 2013.pdf explains how the preferred growth forecasts were arrived at.

Green belt

Section 8 (page 58 onwards of the Core Strategy Preferred Options Stage 2 Consultation Document October 2013.pdf) document deals with the green belt. I draw your attention particularly to paragraphs 8.20 and 8.21 which state (emphasis mine): 
8.20 The existing Green Belt boundaries and approach to the treatment of settlements below Service Centre level, will in some places constrain the ability to allow for development to support diverse and resilient communities in these areas. The assessment work has identified that there are issues particularly in:
  • Acomb
  • Fourstones
  • Heddon on the Wall
  • Horsley
  • Newbrough
  • Ovingham
  • Ovington
  • Stocksfield
  • Wylam
8.21 The boundaries of these settlements will be reviewed as part of the preparation of the Delivery Document. This work will be undertaken using the same methodology that was used to identify the land to be removed from the Green Belt in Main Towns and Service Centres. The approach to the treatment of other Green Belt settlements below Service Centre level, including those that fall within the extension around Morpeth, will also be reviewed as part of the Northumberland Delivery Document.
The thing to observe here is that the proposed green belt deletions in Hexham and Prudhoe described elsewhere in the document are only part of the story and that further deletions could also be proposed in the villages listed above.

Participation

There is lots more to say, but the above provides a good starting point. I encourage everyone to take a look at the Core Strategy Preferred Options Stage 2 Consultation Document October 2013.pdf document and send in responses to as many of the 47 questions therein as possible. Note, that many of the questions relate to other parts of the county, so you might want to focus on those dealing with the Central Delivery Area which includes Prudhoe, Stocksfield, Hexham, etc. Specifically, these are Questions 4, 7, 8, 9, 10–18, 21, 31, 33, 34, & 36.  

You can comment on these proposals in several ways:

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