Rethink over employment sites could be on the way

A SHAKE-up of sites in south east Northumberland set aside for job generation could be on the way.

An employment land study in a county council report to be published on Monday suggests supply and demand for such sites in the county are out of balance despite the large amount of land earmarked.

The study by town planning consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners presents seven scenarios to meet the county’s needs up to the year 2030, suggesting allocating 724 to 1,250 acres for job generation.

It recommends that 724 to 783 acres are set aside.

The report identifies the majority of the most suitable sites as being in south east Northumberland.

It advises that about 346 acres of land allocated for employment generation county-wide be put to other uses and that another 170 acres be found elsewhere to replace it and correct imbalances.

A report to councillors says: “Specifically, the release of additional land is recommended to assist in seeking low-carbon economic investment in the Blyth estuary area.”

Future cuts in public money might be addressed by encouraging mixed-use developments, it suggests.

The document being published is research for a local development framework set to shape land use for years to come. It is being produced for information rather than as a consultation document.

Its release has been brought forward because so many people have been clamouring for a look at it, Northumberland County Council’s planning and environment committee was told last week.

The report covers strategic flood risk and landscape character assessments and studies of land use impact, renewable energy and town centre and retail provision, as well as the employment land review.

It looks at the proposed extension of the green belt around Morpeth and assesses the effect county-wide of mineral workings, landfill and renewable energy.

The energy study concludes that wind power has by far the greatest theoretical potential for renewable electricity generation by the year 2020 and biomass the greatest potential for heat production.

The retail study reveals that a considerable amount of spending is lost to towns and cities outside the county such as Newcastle, North Shields and Gateshead.

To try to counteract that, it proposes establishing a hierarchy of seven town centres, five district centres and 16 local centres.

The town centres suggested are Ashington, Blyth, Cramlington, Morpeth, Alnwick, Berwick and Hexham.

The district centres would be Bedlington, Amble, Ponteland, Prudhoe and Haltwhistle.