OPINION: Too much unsustainable development in Northumberland village
As I write this, the village of Acklington is a hive of building activity, with housing developments being constructed west of the village on agricultural land, in the centre of the village on a mainly brown field site, and bulldozers busy ripping out hedgerows on a new site for Northumberland Estates on agricultural land to the north.
All these developments were given planning permission and are by definition legal. This in itself is hardly a surprise where the planning system is weighted so heavily in favour of developers. However, I have to question the degree to which such developments are ethical, sustainable or in fact in line with the housing need?
If we accept that the national need for housing is true, then looking at the housing being built here we have far too few affordable units and far too many large high value houses. Local essential services already struggle to recruit sufficient staff for health, social care and other essential key services and it’s hardly a surprise given that we do not have sufficient affordable housing in our communities, and poor public transport.
Our communities risk becoming demographically unbalanced as new developments encourage well-off older people to move in, pricing out young families.
I also question the extent to which planning is handled coherently with public services, transport and other infrastructure.
Acklington hasn’t had a shop for nearly 20 years, no pub and only a bus service because of the prison.
We have three trains a day. Our school has closed. I wonder what additional GP/community mental health/dentist/adult social care/education/transport and police capacity is being commissioned to cope with the additional 60 houses here, and all the other local developments in Northumberland?
And while the provision of shops and pubs is left to market forces, it would appear to people living in these communities that these forces aren’t working for them?
So developers – and Northumberland Estates is particularly prominent here – are cashing in and I have to ask how such developments are sustainable and ethical?
I am not opposed to any development per se – for example the re-use of the derelict garage site in the village makes good sense. However, the excessive and haphazard development of Acklington is by no means unique and is being mirrored across our county.
I suggest the developer led stampede to build housing without actual or social infrastructure is a failure of planning processes and demonstrates the weakness of our political process.
Shouldn’t our County Council and Northumberland Estates be exploring more coherent and sustainable approaches to meet Northumberland’s future demographic needs?
Gazette reader David Barras,
Field House Close, Acklington