CPRE Northumberland

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Homes and countryside for all

Modern housing in Ashington Modern housing in Ashington Colin Adsley

CPRE Northumberland believes that a healthy, thriving countryside is important for everyone, no matter where they live.

Our approach to housing policy embodies this belief. Good planning should provide everyone with a decent home they can afford, and meeting the particular needs of rural communities is important if they are to thrive.

In the context of a growing and aging population in Northumberland we accept that it is important to meet the demand for new housing. We believe it can be done while avoiding the kind of sporadic and unsustainable development throughout the county that leads to urban sprawl and villages losing social cohesion as their young people leave and the balance of village life changes.

However, throughout the county, residents are finding that planning applications are being made that threaten rather than enhance the quality of community life in our towns and villages. It is vital that the house-building provision in the Northumberland Local Plan should be based on sound principles of open, democratic planning, so that the changes it will bring to our county over the next 16 years are beneficial to the lives of all Northumbrians.

 The key points of our policy

  • The amount, type and location of new housing should be agreed through plans developed with public support and phased to ensure, wherever possible, that brownfield sites are developed before greenfield land is used.
  • Where brownfield land is not available, new building should be compact and sited to avoid sprawl, aiming instead to create coherently shaped outlines to towns and villages, with all parts of settlements in roughly equal touch with their centres.
  • Need first. Needs should be assessed using realistic evidence, and based on recent demographic and economic forecasts. New housing stock should reflect people's needs in terms of location, size, type, tenure and affordability. Market forces alone are not enough to ensure this.
  • The proportion of affordable homes determined by the Council should not be confused or conflated with low-cost market housing. It is equally important that affordable homes remain 'in perpetuity' and are excluded from the rights to buy or acquire. 
  • In rural areas especially, adequate provision should be made for affordable homes and smaller, easily-managed bungalows to help maintain thriving, balanced communities. Priority in allocating affordable housing should go to those with strong employment or family ties to the area.

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  • Cooperation matters: Neighbouring planning authorities should coordinate their strategic plans to avoid over-provision of housing. Northumberland, for instance should be co-operating with Newcastle and North Tyneside over housing plans.
  • Neighbourhood Plans are the best way communities can make their wishes clear and gain some say in what is built and where in their areas. Where a Neighbourhood Plan is not under way, developers should themselves undertake a responsive local consultation before finalising plans for submission.
  • Essentials, not extras: All new building should be of high quality, efficiently designed, and fitted sympathetically into its surroundings.
  • Plans should show clear respect for environmental objectives, protecting valued landscape features and wildlife habitats and avoiding flood-risk areas.
  • Full consideration must be given to the impact plans may have on local infrastructure provision before they are passed. Serious concerns have already been raised over traffic flows, sewerage overload and school places, particularly in the towns of Morpeth, Hexham and Ponteland.
  • Protecting community life: All new sites should be adequately linked by footpaths to town/village centres (or other local services) and accessible to public transport facilities.
  • Where villages are concerned about the negative effect on community life of excessive amounts of second homes and buy-to-let properties, the Council should consider using its powers, for instance to charge Council Tax at 100% on the second homes, or to increase the proportion of affordable homes set for new developments.        

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