Sunday, 15 September 2013

A long walk around the Ponteland Green Belt

Today I spent 4 hours walking the countryside that makes up the Green Belt around Ponteland, studying what you can only see on foot. The stormy weather that had hit us so hard during the day abated to produce a sunlit windswept autumnal day; hikers, dog walkers, parents with kids and cyclists shrugged at each other as if to say - this is what we like when autumn comes. Aside from the green lungs that is the wonder of Ponteland Park it was a delight to wander the footpaths and bridleways that surround this community. I met many locals: like the Ponteland man, who works as a headteacher in a school in Newcastle. We walked the footpath back into town between the High School and the proposed site of the Banks developement. He described to me how when he returns from work in Newcastle every day the sight of the green fields on the outskits of his home town fills him with comfort and a sense of peace. It is this desire to prevent an urban sprawl, and an acknowledgement of the need to protect the green spaces around our town, that motivates the local campaigners who oppose the Banks and Lugano developments. In barely a month we will know our fate when Northumberland County Council produces its local developmeent plan, which includes the review of the green belt around Ponteland. It is our fervent wish that this green belt is protected. This is not to say that we, or I, am against development of appropriate housing. I have backed wholeheartedly the housing plans at the old Ponteland Pollice Headquarters site, which will provide hundreds of homes, and again campaigned for the several hundred more homes being built to a very high standard by Bellway, as we speak, at the Stannington Hospital site. This will more than adequately accomodate local needs. Every councillor, member of parliamnent and community activist knows that you only discover a place by walking the ground. By seeing things that are not there when we whizz by in a car. I discovered a lot today. Taking in the delights of the footpaths and cycleways, of byways like Fox Covert Lane and the old Railway you are seeing things that are not possible after overdevelopment. As I walked the hedgerows abundant with rosehips, wildflowers, and ageing blackberries I and my fellow travellers were in no doubt that the green belt is worth the struggle, worth the contest with the big beasts that are the huge developers at Lugano and Banks, and fervent in our hope that the Northumberland County Council see things the same way when the decision is made in October. My thanks to all the team of locals who have given up their time to help at and to all the locals who have put up their signs in their gardens and hedgerows. There has never been a local campaign like this - or not for four years at least - when we last pulled out all the stops to beat O2 mobile phone Company, who wanted to put a phone mast by the Darras Hall First School. They said that campaign was impossible to win as well!