Saturday, 21 November 2015

Last chance to make your views clear on Council's Local Plan

Consultation on the submission draft Core Strategy ends on 25 November 2015.

Given my well recorded opposition to building on the greenbelt I remain concerned at the continued high housing figures within the County Council's overall plan. I urge local people to continue to make representations as part of the County Councils ongoing Local Development Plan consultation.

The Council has also issued new proposals as part of the plan for a new school and leisure complex.

On the issue of co-location of services, my support for this principle is well known. In tough times it is vital that public bodies work together to deliver the best quality services. I am also passionate about securing investment in our local schools; nothing is more important than ensuring the best possible education for our children.

We know that being taught in school buildings in good condition, and with the latest facilities, can have a positive effect on pupil attainment. I think many of us therefore welcome the principle of Council investment in our area to deliver new school buidlings and a modern leisure centre. It must however be for local people and parents to make their voices heard to help determine how and where this investment should be delivered.

Regarding the Council's own preferred site, following concerns raised with me, I have been assured that the Council will now work with local residents to consult on issues around access, traffic and the specifics of the site plan.

It is vital that we get a Local Plan in place that works for Ponteland, and, most importantly, one which secures our community from speculative planning applications. We must remain ever aware that a lack of a Local Plan will provide a free-for-all for developers such as Lugano, who still own thousands of acres of land around Ponteland and Darras Hall.

As the Local Plan process draws to a close, it is crucial local people now take part in a final push to secure a Local Plan which balances the objectives of sustainable growth, local investment and protecting our precious greenbelt.

You can read and comment on the Council's plans here:


  1. Dear Mr Opperman,
    As a very concerned parent of children previously and currently at Darras Hall First school I welcome your comment that "nothing is more important than ensuring the best possible education for our children". It is evidently clear from:
    1. the recent parents' protest covered widely in the local media
    2. the response to the petition against the council plans (approaching 1000 signatures online and in hard copy I believe - the overwhelming majority from Ponteland residents)
    3. the response from local businesses & the local church
    4. the response from DHFS Governors and the school Headmaster
    that the Darras Hall community firmly believes that the best possible eduction for 3-9 year olds is at the existing site, right at the heart of our community.

    What greatly concerns me is that you "have been assured that the Council will now work with local residents to consult on issues around access, traffic and the specifics of the site plan." The community wants proper consultation on the scheme as a whole, e.g. the proposals to move the schools and the leisure centre from their existing sites, not "the specifics of the site plan".

    We are gravely concerned that the current 'consultation process' is something of a rushed-through sham; the community were only made fully aware of the plans for Ponteland at the public meeting on 7th November with responses due on the 25th - how is that a proper consultation period?

    The absence of a clear indication of what the council would do with the current site of DHFS should, god forbid, it be moved is nothing more than deceitful.

    The complexity of the response website further exacerbates the community's frustration and concern as to the integrity of the process.

    We sincerely hope and trust that you listen to the community you were elected to serve and represent our wishes in the appropriate manner. Right now, we are deeply fearful that our kids' and our community's future will be irreparably damaged is this ill-conceived, rushed-through scheme is allowed to proceed. We request that you come and meet parents and Governors from DHFS to fully understand our perspective. The councillors and council executives have, thus far, declined to do so.

  2. Dear Mr Opperman, just in case you have any doubts or concerns as to the strength of feeling referred to above, please see the following:

    The Governors’ concerns

    The Headmaster’s concerns

    The Church’s concerns

    Parents’ and kids’ protest

    The Petition

  3. Dear Mr Opperman

    I would like to completely support everything that Mr Russell has said in his message to you, and I know there are hundreds of others who feel the same. As a former parent of the first school, with both my children now at Ponteland Middle School, I have grave concerns regarding the current proposals.

    Like you I want to "ensure the best possible education for our children", but as a parent and an education professional I do not believe these plans will do that, in fact I fear they will be detrimental not only to the education of our children, but to the whole community of Ponteland and Darras Hall.

    Along with many others I have submitted detailed comments on the proposal to Northumberland County Council. I can only hope that they will listen to what the community here has to say. As our elected MP I trust that you will do the same, and represent our concerns and objections.


  4. Dear Guy,

    I am very disappointed by the tone of your blog which whilst mentioning your opposition to building on the Green Belt then seems to me to accept just that by accepting in principle, NCC's proposals for the relocation of the schools, leisure centre and fire station. The community don't wish to discuss where to place the deck chairs on the Titanic but would like to stop it sinking. Accepting the proposal will result in chaos at the Dobbie's roundabout, reduced outdoor sports provision, a leisure centre well outside the centre of the village and will there be a library? Whilst no-one would say 'no' to new schools etc there has been no consultation about where they should be. Why not build on the existing site as was done at Prudhoe? NCC's proposals are unfunded and uncosted and rely on selling the existing school land for housing.

    And underpinning the Core Strategy is the building of 400 houses towards the upwardly revised target of 900 where the schools were. If the schools project does not get the go ahead, then further Green Belt will have to be released.

    It appears to me that you have been persuaded by NCC about consultation after the event but what notice have they taken of representations by Ponteland residents in the previous consultations? Not a lot. It is too late to consult once NCC adopt their SE Ponteland Supplementary Planning Document. Cosmetic changes might be made but the principle will be bulldozed through. And we can't get a Local Plan in place until the Core Strategy is in place and with which it must comply. The Core Strategy makes no proposals about the local infrastructure which will be unable to cope with 900 new houses and the school relocation.

    As I say, disappointed at what I see as a watering down of your opposition to building in the Green Belt and of support for the residents of Ponteland.

    Like Anita above, I completely agree with Mike Russell's comments.

    Disappointed of Darras Hall