DEVELOPMENT: Community overlooked

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For those readers who do not know the Cambois and East Sleekburn area, it is a small village of approximately 500 homes, situated between the River Blyth and the River Wansbeck.

Last year Arch, a management company set up by Northumberland County Council, purchased the land previously owned by RWE, which had a coal-fired power station there.

The power station was demolished about 15 years ago and the land was fenced off and left in a disgraceful state.

We were told that Arch would clear the land and seek to develop it to attract small industries associated with the off-shore sector.

We were shown plans and informed that a wildlife corridor would be created along the main road.

This was excellent news as we thought the 8ft galvanised fence would be removed, making the area look more attractive as you enter the village.

Now things have gone a step too far.

At a recent consultation event, held by Arch, the master plan included leaving the fence in situ so the only people benefitting from this would be those inside the development.

A small dock, known locally as the Ash barge dock, would be doubled in size and all access to the riverside would be banned.

To carry out this work it would involve pile-driving huge sheets of metal into bedrock. Even Arch had to stress that the noise in the village would be substantial.

The estuary is home to a large variety of birds that roost and feed there, also a rare species of butterfly that colonises here.

This area is used by walkers, birdwatchers and photographers.

However, we have been informed that no one will be allowed to visit there, even after the work has been completed.

Boatmen who have moored there for decades have received a letter to say, basically, ‘get your boats moved this year or they will be scrapped’.

In effect, if this goes ahead there will be no access to the whole riverside on the north bank of the River Blyth.

This scheme is costing £25m and to date no investors are in place. I believe this figure does not include the purchase of the land.

The issue that the villagers are concerned about, and there is a lot of unrest about this scheme, is that when it goes through the planning process for consent by Northumberland County Council, how can this be scrutinised when Arch and the county council are one and the same?

We thought this scheme would bring rewards to Cambois, instead it will do nothing to enhance the area.

Jobs, yes, perhaps, but the village has an aging population so there is no real benefit to us there.

Is this not Arch working hand in hand with the Port of Blyth to get extra moorings for larger vessels with a view to use it as a breakers site for the decommissioning of oil and gas rigs, which the port is bidding for?

I also question why the dock needs to be widened when the plan shows a road will be constructed to link the site to the river at Battleship Wharf.

We have already lost the riverside walk from Cambois to East Sleekburn West after RWE fenced it off five years ago, claiming it was dangerous.

Speaking of rewards for the village, we have two major companies working here, namely EDF and National Grid. I would be interested to learn if these companies contributed to the community gain scheme operated by Northumberland County Council.

If they did, where is the money? This village doesn’t seem to have seen a penny of it.

As far as I can see, the county council has not invested in this area. We have to phone the council to get even basic services carried out.

Arch has called the Cambois and East Sleekburn area an Enterprise Zone. Is it so blinkered into making money that it has overlooked that there is a community living here?

On the plan Arch is using to show its development it has strategically placed large dots earmarking each phase. These dots cover the houses situated there.

This area desperately needs investment, but not to the point that we are fenced in by development.

Dorothy O’Connor

Cambois