Don’t ignore local knowledge

WE were most surprised to read in Newton-on-the-moor and Swarland Parish Council’s report (Northumberland Gazette, March 3,) that Northumberland County Council’s representative Peter Rutherford advised the planning department was to be split into rural and urban offices.

We thought that planning decisions in the Alnwick area were the concern of that office and likewise the four other offices (according to the NCC website), Berwick, West Northumberland, South East Northumberland and the Central Offices considered applications in their areas. Fears were raised by the parish councillors that county councillors would not know an area where they were considering planning applications, and consent given without proper knowledge.

The chairman of the parish council, David Rixon, goes on to say that the planning committee “will therefore need to listen more to the parish councils who have local knowledge”.

We sympathise with both these points but unfortunately, if our own parish council’s experience is anything to go by, this is not something that is going to happen now or in the future.

We in Hauxley Parish, and particularly the residents of Low Hauxley, are living with the result of the planning committee’s decision. We now have a new residence being built in the village which is totally out of keeping to the surrounding properties, not just spoiling the views of residents, but being located on the dunes, does not exactly enhance this part of the heritage coastline. Because of the size and design of the property, it is now known locally as Hauxley Tesco’s.

While we had one councillor who knew the area and supported the villagers in opposition to the plans, he was outvoted by the other councillors who totally ignored the local councillor’s guidance and the large amount of local opposition. This opposition included the parish council whose local knowledge was also ignored.

We would invite the members of the planning committee to visit Low Hauxley and see for themselves the outcome of their decision and the effect it has had on what was a small fishing community. Perhaps if they were to see the results of some of their decisions, they would in future take into consideration local people’s opinions, especially when they are supported and represented by the parish council.

We don’t expect there will be any change in the near future and if the planning committee’s areas are extended then we can only see the situation getting worse.

We would like to think that these committees will listen to the parish councillors, but we are not holding our breath.

K Graham and H Wilkinson,

Hauxley Parish Council