A protest group, which has grave concerns about the planning system, has started a petition aimed at tackling perceived issues.
CRAG (Caring for Rothbury Action Group), which has been formed to support appropriate and to fight inappropriate developments in and around Rothbury, collected 120 signatures to its first petition at the village’s Street Fair on May 30.
It followed a protest on May 14, attended by 130 people, to highlight the breach of the current village boundary by the approved application for 57 homes off Garleigh Road by the Northumberland Estates.
Protesters held up copies of the Village Design Statement, which contained a map showing the village boundary.
However, planners felt that the site ‘adjoins Rothbury and is considered to be a suitable location for new housing delivery’, while the Estates said the site is deliverable.
The objectives of the petition are to: Urge for a change in planning legislation as it strongly favours the interests of landowners and developers over the interests of communities, for example, by only granting a right to appeal for planning applications that have been refused; urge local authorities to rely more on brownfield sites, community involvement and adequate assessments of housing needs in making planning decisions; urge national Government to explore whether the connections between Northumberland County Council and Northumberland Estates jeopardise the principle of impartiality in decision-making.
The latter has arisen after it was revealed that the development company Arch, which is wholly-owned by the county council, is in partnership with the Northumberland Estates via Prudhoe Estates LLP.
Geoff Paul, director of planning and economy at Northumberland County Council, said: “The emerging core strategy for Northumberland is aimed at supporting sustainable growth across the whole of the county and housing growth proposals are clearly set out.
“In making decisions on individual planning applications, full consultation is carried out with local residents, with parish and town councils and with other stakeholders, and decisions are made on planning grounds alone.
“The council has a development company called Arch and it works either independently or with a range of selected partners. Any planning application which is received from Arch is dealt with impartially and in line with the same planning criteria that all other applications are judged on.”
The Gazette also approached the Northumberland Estates, but they did not wish to comment.