Cabinet approves blueprint to shape future of Northumberland for ‘decades’

Northumberland’s long-awaited local plan looks set to finally be officially adopted six years after work began on it following its approval by the county council’s top brass.

By James Robinson
Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 10:03 am
Cabinet members at Northumberland County Council have given their backing to the authority's Local Plan.
Cabinet members at Northumberland County Council have given their backing to the authority's Local Plan.

At Tuesday’s cabinet meeting of Northumberland County Council, members unanimously agreed to allow officers to recommend the much-discussed planning blueprint for the entire county is brought into use.

And today (Wednesday) an extraordinary meeting of the council has been convened that will see all members discuss the plan before it is adopted as the council’s main planning policy.

It brings to an end six years of work, taking place since the Conservatives, upon their election victory in 2017, decided to throw out the previous Core Strategy that had been worked on by the previous Labour-led administration.

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Speaking at the meeting, Coun Colin Horncastle, cabinet member for planning, said the process for creating a local plan actually went back to 2009, when local government in Northumberland was reorganised to a unitary authority.

Coun Horncastle explained that up until now, the council’s planning team had been using decades-old policies to make decisions, and now modern policies were needed for a changing county.

He said: “This is a seriously important document. This is something that this council has been working on for about 12 years, ever since LGR (local government reform).

“After the election in 2017 the then-leader of the council decided to withdraw the Core Strategy and start again.

"What I would like to say is the previous one we worked on would probably not have got past government scrutiny because of the huge housing figures that it had in, which would have meant that so much land would have been taken out of the green belt, particularly in the Hexham and Ponteland areas.

“It may not have got to fruition and we would have been back to square one anyway.

“This new local plan is a blueprint for the future of Northumberland. We needed modern policies to get things like Britishvolt and the Northumberland Line through.

"What we’re saying is the adoption of this local plan is modern policies to suit the modern economy of Northumberland.”

Cabinet heard that every stage of the plan’s creation, consultation has been carried out with local residents plus town and parish councils.

Also included in the plan are policies to improve affordable housing in coastal and rural areas that have been affected by the rapid increase in second homes.

Coun Guy Renner-Thompson, who represents Bamburgh, said the changes would be welcomed in his parishes.

Those involved in the creation of the plan were praised by council leader Glen Sanderson.

He said: “The decision to say we needed a new local plan in its entirety was a difficult one back at the beginning of the last administration. We knew the previous administration had spent significant time drawing up a Core Strategy.

“This plan will create the right houses, in the right place, the right amount at the right price, and encourage more businesses to come and set up in the county, which is hugely important for jobs and for people who want a new start.

“I do want to thanks staff – I think the way our team have done consultation has been exemplary. I am deeply grateful. I think we should all feel very positive about moving forward.”