A county councillor has penned an open letter to residents asking for their views on a proposal for Rothbury parish to become part of the Northumberland National Park.
Coun Steven Bridgett has put forward the idea in a bid to protect communities outside of the park boundary from ‘speculative development’.
He believes that incorporating Rothbury – and perhaps neighbouring parishes – into the National Park would help the area develop at a sustainable rate.
If there is community support for his idea, Coun Bridgett – ward member for Rothbury – said the next step would be to talk to the Northumberland National Park Authority.
In an open letter, published through the Gazette, he said: ‘I have previously dismissed this proposal, but times change and I am warming to the idea of bringing Rothbury into the Northumberland National Park.
‘Since the Government effectively tore up the old National Planning Policy Framework in 2010 and introduced a new national planning document that is sided in favour of developers, along with the county council abandoning its own planning and development strategy this summer, areas like Rothbury have been left exposed to speculative development.
‘Inclusion within the National Park would allow Rothbury some protection from speculative development, allowing it to develop at a more sustainable pace.
‘I understand that development needs to take place in every community if it is to thrive so that services can continue to meet the needs of the existing population. But this is not what is happening in Rothbury.
‘In the now-scrapped emerging county-council planning framework, it was recommended that the advised quota of new housing for the Rothbury area between 2011 and 2031 would be 200 properties. As of September 2017, 269 new homes have either been built, are being constructed or have been given planning approval.
‘I have concerns about the type of development being forced upon Rothbury. These homes are not affordable to local people who are being priced out of the market.
‘Development in Rothbury needs to happen at a more conservative pace and our services need to be allowed to keep up. House building needs to deliver on our priorities of council housing to rent, purchase or hold in shared ownership.
‘Rothbury moving into the National Park would not solve all of these problems, but it would offer us more opportunities to slow the pace of development, as National Parks are not required to deliver on housing quotas in the same way as other local authorities.
‘Inclusion would offer us more protection from central government planning legislation and allow us to become part of the Park’s forthcoming development plan.
‘Currently, developments of 10 or less houses do not have to provide any affordable or council housing, whereas in the National Park the requirement to deliver that priority is based on developments of more than five properties.
‘Once affordable housing is built, stipulations can be put on to ensure it remains available to the local community.’