YOUR paper continues to feature the ongoing argument between parties divided by a plan to build luxury homes in Beadnell with a view to providing a long-term legacy to maintain the village harbour. Local people are continuing to contact me to explore ideas for a way forward.
This difficult debate gives us an important insight into how national politics will play out in Northumberland. A key part of our Coalition Government’s philosophy is the ‘Big Society’. This is driving policies that have in common a belief in the power of local people to make good decisions for their patch and to encourage them to become responsible for themselves, their neighbours and local assets. I am often pointing out to Ministers that such a society is already thriving here in Northumberland, with so many of us involved in voluntary organisations contributing to our communities’ well-being.
But the Beadnell Harbour issue illustrates how difficulties can arise where a community is divided. It is no surprise to those of us who live in small communities that the neat, metropolitan idyll of tightly-knit rural villages is complicated by the realities of living alongside neighbours who have different goals and visions. So, where community unanimity is absent, is this where the state should step in as a ‘fair’ arbiter?
Perhaps, but knowing that this is not an option might also provide a stimulus for innovative local agreements.
One idea put forward by the Save Beadnell Association is for the harbour itself to be placed into a Community Interest Holding Company. This would mean that it would be held in perpetuity by the community who would be responsible for its upkeep and usage. Those involved in the debate argue the pros and cons of this proposal with knowledge and passion and I hope that all the voices of the Beadnell community will be heard as this matter reaches its climax. The frontiers of a bigger society can only roll forward successfully when local people find mutually agreeable solutions to local problems.