We cannot afford to sleep soundly just yet

I WOULD like to reply to Mr John Pooley’s letter of August 4 (Buildings starting to invade scenery).

Mr Pooley writes from York with the concern and alarm of someone who recognises the unique and beautiful attractions of our wonderful county.

He is one of thousands, nay millions, who appreciate and value the fantastic historical, mythical, spiritual and awe-inspiring scenic qualities of this, the most northern county of England.

What is it that brings people, in increasing numbers, from all over the world to spend time here and to return time and time again?

Is it the quality of our agricultural buildings as Mr Pooley highlights? Perhaps not.

How about the style and quality of our general village architecture? Having been a Northumbrian all my life I’ve yet to see it.

Is our county a rich source of eclectic art, music and fashion envied the world over? Well, we undoubtedly have some talented artists and musicians but no, this is not what brings the tourists flocking to our rura-l land.

Perhaps it’s the abundance of five star hotels basking in our North Sea warmed Mediterranean climate that clinches it?

What I would say is that the person who dips a naked toe in our coastal waters does so with a gay abandon that has to be admired – at least by this writer. I could never catch my breath in Tynemouth open air swimming pool let alone the North Sea. And besides, I’m not a keen advocate of self-inflicted frost bite. So no. People don’t come here for the lukewarm bathing and the desire to get a tan.

Northumberland is famous, and justifiably so, for its history, heritage and gorgeous and largely unspoilt scenery. Its hinterland and coastline are superb.

And the fact that in this hassled and pressurised world of ours, people can come here and largely forget about Greece going bankrupt, the USA defaulting on their debts and the fact that trying to cover the mortgage, pay their ever-increasing utility bills and fund an ever-decreasing pension pot while slavishly working till they’re 70 can be put on the back burner, at least for a while.

Mr Pooley is very perceptive when he says that he is aware of the landscape being ‘eroded’ and that ‘building development is in danger of diminishing both visitors’ and residents’ pleasure in living here’.

He further mentions the lack of ‘sensitive integration’ and the use of inappropriate materials in new buildings.

Revealingly, he highlights the fact that in an area as attractive as this there is more responsibility on those with the power to grant planning permission and to impose a far more robust monitoring of applications for their visual impact.

And this concerned and fearful gentleman from York says all this without even being aware of the last year of sheer turmoil that the residents of Beadnell have had to endure.

Planning permission to build luxury houses on the actual coastline of Beadnell village was rejected in May of this year. The planning department supported this application but the county councillors rejected it.

It was a concerted effort by the hastily formed Save Beadnell Association (of which I am proud to be a member) that came to the conclusion that Beadnell without its coastline would be unthinkable.

Due solely to the efforts of a select few of true Beadnell lovers who devoted their time and their own money to resist building plans, we secured a memorable victory and the coastline, to date, remains intact.

But where else other than Northumberland would the planning department be so out of touch with reality as to support proposed luxury housing developments that ticked all the boxes typically of concern to Mr Pooley?

Landscape? Doesn’t matter. Viewpoints for residents and visitors alike? Who needs them. Destruction of archaeological sites? They’re just old ruins – who cares?

Fishermen’s heritage and history? The huts are falling down – just flatten them completely. Rights of way? Fence them off.

Privatisation of coastline for a wealthy few? That sounds about right.

The burying of coastal flora and fauna under concrete and decking? What is flora and fauna by the way? Can you make money out of it?

The complete disregard of covenants set in place years ago to prevent future development? Just invent a reason to bypass these and we’ll disregard them completely.

The opinions and views of all the major bodies including the National Trust, the management of the Northumberland AONB, the parish council, English Heritage, Rural England, the opinions and views of local politicians, a petition with thousands of signatures gained in just a few weeks and polling results which showed well over 90 per cent of residents against the proposed development? Do their opinions and assertions not matter?

Well, as far as the north Northumberland planning department is concerned, actually no.

If it wasn’t for the common sense of the county council members at the deciding council meeting to see through the sham of this application and disregard the planning department’s recommendation, we would now be witnessing the cement being laid on our beautiful and irreplaceable village shoreline.

Looking back on this now it all seems like a bad dream.

When those who are trusted and indeed who are charged to make decisions for the benefit of the community are palpably seen to be doing the opposite it completely erodes the credibility of those in key decision making positions. It is unquestionably a sad and very serious state of affairs.

Mr Pooley summarises his letter by saying ‘It is in everyone’s interests for this area to remain one of outstanding natural beauty, not become one of outstandingly inappropriate building development’.

The huge majority of those of us who love north Northumberland salute you Mr Pooley and we echo your sentiments wholeheartedly.

We in Beadnell who see the loss of our Heritage coastline as being the ultimate nightmare cannot afford to sleep soundly just yet.

Our applications for village green status which would put the disputed areas of coastline beyond risk are being resisted.

Those who are motivated by short-term profit and who have no interest whatsoever in what is best for the community at large are nothing if not persistent.

The developer in question stated immediately after his plans were rejected that he would be re-submitting the same.

We trust and indeed expect that Mr Peter Rutherford and his planning department will make the correct and right decision and reject out of hand any further coastal planning applications that fly in the face of everything that residents and visitors to this delightful seaside village know to be right.

It is essential to move on from this awful episode and to concentrate our efforts on building Beadnell up to its true potential as a proud community that has much to offer those who appreciate the character of this area.

We need to foster and strengthen our community spirit and we can only do this when the threat to develop our coastline, which is the very soul of our village, no longer exists.

Jim Norris

Harbour Road