Housing growth needs thought

A conservation and heritage group is calling for serious consideration to be given to the location of future housing developments in a Northumberland town, amid an estimated 1,000-home increase.

Alnwick Civic Society has produced a briefing paper which addresses housing projections for the area over the next 20 years.

It follows Northumberland County Council’s draft Local Plan, which states that a growth in population above national projections is required to maintain and strengthen Alnwick.

The preferred level of growth would be an additional 1,000 homes by 2031, with land in the south of the town potentially supporting 500.

But, the Society has said that serious thought needs to be given to where extra homes may be built in the town. The briefing paper states: “The shortage of suitable housing must be addressed. But we don’t just need more homes – we need the right kind in the right place.

“One of the challenges is to find enough space. There is a real shortage of suitable land. Most people think that the right place to start building more homes is on previously developed land, inside the town.

“The existing centre is recognised as the heart of the town. Many of the facilities that people need are already there. Building homes near the centre will bring new life into the town and help maintain a good choice of shops and services.

“However, the way things are going, most new housing will not be built on previously developed land, but on greenfield sites. Most of it will be on the edges of town, to the south and the east, not close to existing facilities and not distributed evenly around the town.

“The further the town spreads in one direction, the further families will be living from facilities in the centre and the more likely they will use facilities elsewhere.”

The Society says the county council has not identified all of the potential sites in the town, including school plots which are set to be vacated, and has called on councillors to treat potential housing land as a precious asset.

The paper adds: “By pooling local knowledge and imaginative thinking, we reckon space for at least another 200 homes could be found near the centre, meaning more people could live close to existing facilities.”