The Northumberland Local Plan
In the Draft Plan, CPRE Northumberland found much to support, especially in the detailed concerns expressed for the environment, with policies to protect the tranquillity of the countryside and dark skies. Housing numbers have been revised to take account of recent figures for population growth, so that it has not been deemed necessary to make any further inroads into the Green Belt, which is at last to be ‘officially’ extended to north of Morpeth and west of Hexham.
However, while we noted that the National Park and AONBs (the North Northumberland Coast and the Pennines) were left free of wind farms, we took issue over the County Council’s decision to declare extensive areas of the rest of the county as ‘potentially suitable for wind turbines up to 40 metres’. This means that many of our most spectacular landscapes – as seen from popular viewpoints from the Wannies to the Kyloe hills – could be blighted by turbines up to 130 feet high in future. We have cooperated with the Northumberland and Newcastle Society over past consultations, and again their professionally-advised representation on policy REN 2 and the map of areas deemed suitable for turbines up to 40 metres was thoroughly argued and we were happy to co-sign it.
The Plan’s Examination-in-Public has now been completed. A number of major modifications have been agreed with the Inspectors to make the Draft Plan sound. These have been drawn up for consultation, with feedback currently being sought by the Council (deadline: 4 August) before the Inspectors can give their final verdict on the Plan.
It has been a long time in coming, but the end may at last be in sight for our wait for a fully functional Local Plan for Northumberland.
However, the benefits it should bring to the planning process in the county may be short-lived, as the Government has already issued a Planning White Paper with proposals which could radically change the planning system in favour of developers, and threaten the landscape settings of our towns and villages as never before.