Pros and cons of new housing in Northumberland village weighed up by councillors

Parish councillors want to restrict the number of new houses permitted in a Northumberland village over the next generation.

Belford Parish Council has called on the neighbourhood plan steering group to request a small settlement boundary rather than allow a large settlement boundary which would potentially enable the village to expand.

The pros and cons of both ideas were discussed at the latest meeting with councillors voting 4-2 in favour of a smaller boundary.

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Councillors were told that the new Northumberland local plan, if approved, will allow 120 new houses in Belford up to 2036. However, there are already applications in for 112 houses.

Brenda Stanton, steering group chairman, said: “We could allocate land for housing and go to all the effort of providing evidence and providing environmental checks, but that would cost quite a lot of money,” she explained.

“But if you consider all the little bits of infill land in Belford it could probably provide enough land for eight extra houses. We could have 120 houses the parish council thought they needed several years ago without allocating extra land.

“My feeling is that if there are 112 potential houses in the offing – and that’s about 40 more than we have at the moment – there are going to be infill plots and barns and outbuildings developed outwith the village, I think the village will continue to grow but in a manageable way.

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“The steering group felt that lots of new houses could detract a little bit from the beautiful place we live in. If we choose not to allocate housing land and keep with the small, tight boundary then we protect the environment beyond the village.”

Parish council vice-chairman Ian Carruthers also questioned whether more land should be allocated for housing given the declining number of shops and services in the village, lack of employment and the closure of the middle school.

Coun Julian Cunningham said: “We need to encourage families into the village, but the ultimate issue is that you can build as many four-bedroom houses as you want, but you’ve also got to create employment. It’s about the whole infrastructure.”

Coun Kerry Noble added: “I strongly feel that with the infrastructure of the village at the moment, especially at the surgery, that we’ve got all these houses already in the building process.

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“If we go for a larger boundary, these speculative housing applications are going to increase. If we only need eight houses, we will be saved all this grief of speculative planning applications.”

However, parish council chairman and local county councillor, Coun Guy Renner-Thompson, favoured a larger settlement boundary.In the North Northumberland Coast neighbourhood plan, he revealed that Seahouses had a wider settlement boundary, while Bamburgh and Beadnell had tighter settlement boundaries to protect their character.

“I have always been in favour of a big boundary,” He said. “I would quite like to see the village expand.

“We are a service centre and I personally like to see development because it shows the village is still a going concern. More people is better as far as I am concerned. I have always felt that Belford could take more houses.”A strategic and environmental assessment is now needed, then a draft plan will go to consultation. The steering group will then review all comments before submitting the plan to the county council.

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