APPEAL: Hard work squandered

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I am deeply disappointed, but not altogether surprised, at the decision of the planning inspector to allow Barratt Homes to build an additional 285 houses in New Hartley, (News Post Leader, October 5).

Planning laws and regulations already overtly favour development and developers. Local councillors are put in the insidious position of trying to defend the best interests of their communities within a legal framework that is presumptive of development.

In this case, members of the strategic planning committee, meeting before the council elections in May, did listen to local people and stakeholders and refused permission to build, citing over-development. It was this decision that was taken to appeal and overturned.

What makes it more frustrating is that planning inspector Kenneth Stone states in his determination that the decision of the Conservative administration at County Hall to withdraw the core strategy at the last minute played a significant role in his decision.

The fact that the document was withdrawn a matter of days after the hearing, in which the council had largely relied on the core strategy to defend its decision and prove that it had a plan for housing supply over the next five years, left it without a defence so the inspector had little choice but to support the appeal and award costs against the council.

What is sad is that the Conservative group made this decision because of promises it made whilst electioneering in Ponteland and Hexham. This was evident at the council meeting where the decision was made when the chamber was filled with cheering residents from these areas.

This decision has inflicted huge financial costs on the county council, which will have an impact on services and charges.

It looks like they have sold the residents of New Hartley and other small communities in south east Northumberland down the river.

It is a crying shame that the hard work and determination of local residents, councillors and council officers was squandered.

Coun Susan Dungworth

Hartley Ward