Developers fear Northumberland Local Plan will stifle new housing in rural villages

Developers are concerned that the Northumberland Local Plan will stifle new housing in rural villages.

By Ben O'Connell
Thursday, 27th February 2020, 4:19 pm
Updated Friday, 28th February 2020, 3:14 pm
File picture from Pixabay
File picture from Pixabay

The public examination of the key document, which will guide and determine future planning applications in the county, has continued this week, with planning inspector Susan Heywood seeking to decide whether the plan is sound and meets legal requirements.

As the hearings started again on February 26, house-builders’ representatives were concerned that the housing need in rural villages had not been identified, coupled with restrictive settlement or green-belt boundaries.

James Hall, of Barton Willmore, representing Bellway Homes, said: “I’m not sure how you would have further development in a service village? What’s the point of defining them?”

Robin Wood, on behalf of several clients, added: “The problem we have is even if there’s need identified, where is the housing going to go?

“I don’t know how you can square the circle if you don’t have identified need figures and then the boundaries don’t allow any development.”

Chris Martin, of the Pegasus Group, for Gleeson and Dysart, said: “We think a far more flexible approach to development beyond settlement boundaries should be made.”

But Steve Robson, one of Northumberland County Council’s chief planners, said: “I don’t accept that it’s a particularly restrictive policy.”

There were also concerns about another aspect of this spatial strategy policy, which would mean that developments would not be supported in rural areas if they ‘increase the number of dwellings in the settlement over the plan period by more than 10%’.

The inspector suggested that this may be hard to justify across all settlements and called for the council to ‘drill down into what you are trying to prevent and what you are happy to allow’.

She also considered another element of the policy – which requires major developments to demonstrate community support – to be unsound.

During the final session on Thursday February 27, the inspector also called for the council to look again at one of its housing policies, as she claimed it went ‘further than the framework’ by placing restrictions on any home in the open countryside, while the national rulebook only refers to ‘isolated homes’.