Protest against development pressures in Northumberland

Protesters starting to gather in Rothbury at yesterday's demonstration.

Protesters starting to gather in Rothbury at yesterday's demonstration.

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More than 100 people turned out yesterday for a demonstration aimed at highlighting issues related to the planning system and the pressures it imposes on Northumberland communities.

Saturday's peaceful gathering was organised by emerging group CRAG (Caring for Rothbury Action Group) and took place on the village's southern boundary, near the middle school.

This location was chosen as it is close to the site of an approved scheme by the Northumberland Estates - one of the group's main foes - for 57 homes, which was opposed by a number of residents, local parish councils and the ward member, Coun Steven Bridgett.

But this is just an example of the type of developments that the group is concerned about and one of the motivations for yesterday's protest was to call out to and connect with other communities like Alnmouth, Amble, Beadnell, Belford, Corbridge, Prudhoe, Shilbottle, and Warkworth, that have recently found themselves 'threatened' by the developers.

The group also wanted to 'speak up for communities and show how by coming together we can overcome the sense of powerlessness we've become accustomed to in the face of this common foe'; 'challenge the Government's current legislation which leaves communities like ours exposed to unwanted impositions of this kind'; and 'draw attention to the way in which county councils can be challenged in terms of interpreting and applying current legislation with respect to planning and how conflicts of interest could undermine public confidence'.

A statement from CRAG, explaining its ethos, reads: 'CRAG represents people who value community and find it important to stand up to what we see as the threat of injustices inflicted upon it.

'To do this on a local level, we need to protect basic things like the representation of views relating to the use of the land within and around Rothbury, our rate of expansion and the changes any such expansion could bring about.

'This includes the impact on the livelihoods of local people, including farmers who might be displaced, local shops and small businesses, as well as our general quality of life, by altering our population density, our local landscape, our natural environment, and placing unsustainable pressure on our local infrastructure like our schools, our medical services, our sewage works and our roads.

'On a wider level, we realise that all of the threats we face are being faced by communities right across Northumberland and the country as a whole'.