PTC RESPONSE – Objection to the Application for Outline Planning Permission for Construction of 400 Residential Dwellings, Associated Roads, Paths, Car Parking, Drainage & Landscaping- Land West of Cheviot View, Ponteland

YOUR REFERENCE: 16/04408/OUT
OUR REFERENCE: KM/PTC

Northumberland County Council
Planning Department
County Hall
Morpeth
NE61 2EF

13th January 2017
FAO MS J Murphy

Dear Mrs Murphy
RESPONSE OF PONTELAND TOWN COUNCIL – OBJECTION TO THE APPLICATION FOR OUTLINE PLANNING PERMISSION FOR CONSTRUCTION OF 400 RESIDENTIAL DWELLINGS, ASSOCIATED ROADS, PATHS, CAR PARKING, DRAINAGE AND LANDSCAPING – LAND WEST OF CHEVIOT VIEW, PONTELAND
Thank you for notifying us of the above application for planning permission. Our comments on the application are provided in the attached report. Please note the Town Council’s strong opposition to the development proposed.
In addition to the objections we have about the suitability of the site for the proposed development, there are a number of technical matters that we wish to raise.
Firstly, it would appear that towards the end of last year, a number of documents were submitted and subsequently uploaded to your website intended to provide further information to support the application. The Town Council feel that the community affected by the development should be made aware of this further information, and provided adequate opportunity to comment on it. This is particularly the case since the information deals with matters raised in objections submitted by members of the public.

Secondly, a revised location plan was submitted in relation to the application (untitled) which appears to relate to the land for educational facilities. This is misleading to the public in terms of the site affected by the development proposed.
Thirdly, it is noted within the planning statement that heads of terms for a s106 agreement which will deliver stated benefits ‘necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms’ is to be withheld until the application for planning permission is submitted. This deprives the public of the opportunity to understand and comment on the justification for the development. This is particularly important given the green belt location of the site, and the fact that the ‘pivotal’ reason for submitting the application in advance of the examination of the Core Strategy is the alleged funding allowing the educational facilities to progress. It would appear that this is the only stated very special circumstance justifying inappropriate development in the green belt, yet the local community affected by that development are prevented from knowing about it and commenting on it prior to a decision being made. Ironically, paragraph 3.9 of the planning statement talks about empowering local people to shape their surroundings. There are not many local people feeling empowered at this late stage in the process.
We would welcome the opportunity to comment on any revised information submitted in respect of this application, and look forward to hearing from you regarding the intended date for the application’s consideration by the Council’s planning committee.
We are aware that the application will need to be submitted to the Secretary of State prior to a decision being issued, should the planning authority be minded to grant consent, because it is contrary to the adopted Development Plan. In circumstances where the planning authority is minded to approve development here at this time, the Town Council will be making representations separately to the National Planning Policy Casework Unit that the application should be called-in and a public inquiry held as to whether the development is indeed appropriate for this location.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely

K Mavin
Clerk to the Council
Enc.
RESPONSE OF PONTELAND TOWN COUNCIL – OBJECTION TO THE APPLICATION FOR OUTLINE PLANNING PERMISSION FOR CONSTRUCTION OF 400 RESIDENTIAL DWELLINGS, ASSOCIATED ROADS, PATHS, CAR PARKING, DRAINAGE AND LANDSCAPING – LAND WEST OF CHEVIOT VIEW, PONTELAND
1.0 Introduction
2.0 The development plan and other material considerations
• Castle Morpeth Local Plan
• Other material considerations

3.0 Principle of development
• Green belt
• Settlement boundary
4.0 Detailed matters
• Traffic impacts
• Ecological impacts
• Contributions
5.0 Conclusion

1.0 Introduction
This report has been prepared to clearly set out the Town Council’s strong objection to the application for outline planning permission made by Banks Property Ltd for the erection of 400 dwellings and associated roads, paths, car parking, drainage and landscaping on land west of Cheviot View.
The Town Council supports the large number of people living in the surrounding area and further afield who have taken the time to voice their objections already.
2.0 The Development Plan and other material considerations
In accordance with Section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, decisions on planning applications must be made in accordance with the Development Plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
The primacy of the Development Plan is reaffirmed in paragraph 11 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which states:
‘Planning law requires that applications for planning permission must be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.’
Paragraph 12 of the NPPF goes on to state:
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‘This National Planning Policy Framework does not change the statutory status of the development plan as the starting point for decision making. Proposed development that accords with an up-to-date Local Plan should be approved, and proposed development that conflicts should be refused unless other material considerations indicate otherwise.’
The statutory Development Plan relevant to this application consists of the saved policies of the Castle Morpeth Local Plan (2003). Material considerations comprise: the NPPF; National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG); the emerging Northumberland Local Plan Core Strategy and the emerging Ponteland Neighbourhood Plan.
Castle Morpeth Local Plan (2003)
Whilst the Castle Morpeth Local Plan (CMLP) was adopted over 13 years ago, with a plan period from 1991 to 2006, it remains part of the Development Plan and is the starting point for the determination of planning applications. Paragraph 215 of the NPPF states that:
‘…due weight should be given to relevant policies in existing plans according to their degree of consistency with this framework (the closer the policies in the plan to the policies in the Framework, the greater the weight that may be given).’
A number of the policies within the CMLP are relevant to the determination of the planning application. Those that go to the heart of the proposal are:
• C1 and PC1 – Settlement Boundaries;
• C16 and PC1 – Green Belt; and
• C17 – New buildings in the Green Belt.
Other policies relating to more technical matters are:
• RE4 – Water;
• RE6 – Drainage, water supply and sewerage;
• C4 and PC4 – Landscape Corridors;
• C11 – Protected species;
• C12 and PC4 – Wildlife Corridors;
• C15 – Trees, hedgerows and landscaping;
• H15 – New housing development; and
• R4 – Children’s play.

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Other material considerations
NPPF:
The NPPF is a material consideration in planning decisions. Paragraph 6 states that the purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. Several sections of the NPPF are relevant to the determination of the planning application:
• Paragraph 14 – Presumption in favour of sustainable development. ;
• Paragraph 17 – Core planning principles;
• Paragraphs 32 and 34 – Transport and movement;
• Paragraph 47 – Boosting the supply of housing;
• Paragraph 49 – Five year housing land supply and sustainable development;
• Paragraph 50 – Housing mix;
• Section 9 – Protecting Green Belt land;
• Paragraph 99 – Climate change;
• Paragraphs 100 – 104 – Flood risk;
• Paragraph 111 – Effective use of land;
• Paragraph 118 – Biodiversity;
• Paragraph 216 – Emerging development plans.
The emerging Northumberland Core Strategy:
In accordance with the NPPF, the emerging Northumberland Core Strategy is a material consideration in the determination of the planning application. Paragraph 216 of the NPPF states that the level of weight that can be given to an emerging plan depends on the extent to which there are unresolved objections. The less significant the unresolved objections, the greater the weight that may be given.
A number of the policies within the emerging Core Strategy are relevant to the determination of the planning application. Those that go to the heart of the proposal are:
• Policy 3 – Spatial distribution – there is significant unresolved objection to this policy approach, it can therefore be only given very limited weight;
• Policy 15 – Housing scale and distribution – there is significant unresolved objection to this policy, therefore limited weight can be given to it in the determination of this application;

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• Policy 16 – Strategic delivery sites and additional housing allocations – there is significant unresolved objection to this policy, therefore limited weight can be given to it in the determination of this application;

• Policy 24 – Strategic approach to the Green Belt – this policy complies with NPPF and there is not significant unresolved objection, it may therefore be given weight in the determination of the application;
• Policy 26 – Uses acceptable in the Green Belt – this policy complies with NPPF and there is not significant unresolved objection, it may therefore be given weight in the determination of the application.
Other policies relating to more technical matters are:
• Policy 18 – Planning for housing;
• Policy 19 – Affordable housing
• Policy 21 – Housing for older people and vulnerable groups;
• Policy 28 – Environment principles;
• Policy 29 – Biodiversity;
• Policy 36 – Water supply and sewerage;
• Policy 37 – Flooding;
• Policy 38 – Sustainable drainage systems;
• Policy 41 – Promoting sustainable connections;
• Policy 41A – Transport network; and
• Policy 51 – Green infrastructure.
The emerging Ponteland Neighbourhood Plan:
In accordance with paragraph 216 of the NPPF, the emerging Ponteland Neighbourhood Plan is a material consideration in the determination of the planning application. Consultation on the Pre Submission Draft Plan took place between 1 November and 16 December 2016. There were 123 responses received to the plan, none of which raised significant objections. The Plan contains 32 policies. As Green Belt is a strategic matter, the Neighbourhood Plan does not include any policies relating to the Green Belt. In addition, it does not propose to define a settlement boundary. The policies within the draft Plan of relevance to the determination of the application relate to the technical elements of the proposal, these are:
• PNP 1 – Sustainable development principles;
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• PNP 2 – High quality and inclusive design;
• PNP 3 – Infrastructure;
• PNP 10 – Green infrastructure;
• PNP 11 – Landscape;
• PNP 12 – Green approaches;
• PNP 13 – Biodiversity;
• PNP 14 – Wildlife corridors;
• PNP 21 – Housing mix;
• PNP 27 – Flood risk;
• PNP 28 – Sustainable drainage systems;
• PNP 29 – Transport and new developments;
• PNP 30 – Active travel routes
3.0 The Principle of Development
It is suggested that the development is wholly unacceptable in principle.
It is a well established statutory requirement that, as explained above, decisions on planning applications must be made in accordance with the Development Plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Two land allocations /constraints within the CMLP apply to the assessment of the principle of development:
• Green Belt (C16 and PC1); and
• Settlement Boundaries (C1 and PC1).
The Green Belt
Paragraph 79 of the NPPF identifies that the Government attaches great importance to Green Belts, with the fundamental aim of Green Belt policy being to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open. The essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence. Paragraph 80 sets out the five purposes of the Green Belt, which are to:
• Check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
• Prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;
• Assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;
• Preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and
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• Assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.
Inappropriate development in the Green Belt:
Section 3.26 of the submitted Planning Statement (PS) states:
‘Firstly, in line with paragraph 87 of NPPF, we acknowledge that the proposed development of 400 dwellings at West Clickemin Farm would constitute “inappropriate development” in the Green Belt and this is by definition “harmful to the Green Belt”. This is an unavoidable harm of submitting the application at this time before the boundaries have been formally amended.’
The applicant does therefore not dispute that the proposal constitutes inappropriate development in the Green Belt. The main issue in this application is therefore whether the potential harm to the Green Belt is clearly outweighed by very special circumstances which could justify granting planning permission.
Openness and permanence of the Green Belt:
As explained above, paragraph 79 of the NPPF is clear that the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and permanence. The applicant clearly states that the development will result in a loss of openness (section 3.30 of the PS).
The proposed development would be seriously harmful to the Green Belt by reason of its inappropriateness and because it would significantly reduce its openness.
Impact on the purposes of the Green Belt:
The Green Belt that lies within Northumberland forms part of the wider Tyne and Wear Green Belt. The overriding purpose of the Green Belt within Northumberland is to prevent the unrestricted sprawl of the Tyne and Wear conurbation. This principle was established when the Green Belt was designated.
Policy 24 of the emerging Northumberland Core Strategy defines the strategic approach to the Green Belt which is to:
a. Safeguard the countryside from encroachment;
b. Check the unrestricted sprawl of Tyne and Wear;
c. Prevent the merging of: Newcastle upon Tyne with Ponteland, Newcastle Airport, or Cramlington; and North Tyneside with Cramlington or Blyth;
d. Preserve the setting and special character of Hexham, Corbridge and Morpeth;
e. Prevent Morpeth merging with neighbouring settlements;
f. Prevent the merger of rural settlements; and
g. Assist in the regeneration of settlements in South East Northumberland beyond the Green Belt.
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Ponteland is a settlement with approximately 11,000 residents. In the context of Northumberland, it is large built up area, extending the settlement to the south east, towards the Tyne and Wear conurbation will not accord with the first, second or third purposes of Green Belts, Policy 17 of the CMLP or Policy 24 of the emerging Core Strategy.
Very special circumstances:
The proposed development will be seriously harmful to the Green Belt by reason of its inappropriateness and because it would significantly reduce its openness. The factors the applicant identifies should be weighed against the harm to the Green Belt are:
1. That the development is needed to deliver a new education and leisure campus for Ponteland;
2. Contribution that the application site can make to the delivery of much needed housing; and
3. Highways improvements.
1. Education and leisure campus:
Sections 3.67 – 3.76 of the PS attempt to justify why the development is needed to deliver a new education and leisure campus in Ponteland. Section 3.67 correctly states:
‘This argument needs to establish why housing will facilitate the campus and why a commitment to starting the campus is needed in advance of adoption of the Core Strategy.’
However, the information that follows does not set out a compelling case for the need for the proposed development.
It refers to the emerging Core Strategy, however, in accordance with paragraph 216 of the NPPF given the high level of unresolved objections to the proposals to delete land from the Green Belt, very limited weight can be given to this argument. Whilst background information is provided within sections 3.69 – 3.70 of the PS explaining the decision of the County Council to replace the existing facilities, no evidence is presented as part of the application of the need for the new education and leisure campus.
In addition, reference is made in sections 3.71 – 3.72 of the PS to the desire to reduce the level of students from Newcastle attending Ponteland schools, however no acknowledgement is made of the level of children resident in Ponteland attending private schools in Newcastle. Parental choice cannot be controlled through the proposed development.
Section 3.70 of the PS refers to the development cross subsidising the education and leisure provision, the only justification provided is:
‘The project therefore is bigger and more diverse than one which would normally be funded from a central government source (such as Department for Education). It requires gap funding which the new housing can provide.’

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No financial information is included as part of the application to demonstrate the education and leisure scheme cannot be funded by other means.
Section 3.73 of the PS refers to the clear physical linkages between the proposed development and the education and leisure facilities. Linkages already exist between the existing residential development within Ponteland with education and leisure; building additional housing will not create a tangible benefit.
In summary, the information provided as part of the application has not demonstrated that: there is a need for the new education and leisure facilities; and should the new facilities be required, that there is a requirement for developer contributions towards the provision of the new facilities.
2. Contribution to the delivery of much needed housing:
The Northumberland Five Year Supply of Deliverable Sites (2016 – 2021) document, published in December 2016, identifies that across Northumberland as a whole there is a 6.3 years’ supply of housing. The Central Housing Market Area, within which the application site is located, has an 8.2 years’ supply of housing.
Paragraph 34 (Reference ID: 3-034-20141006) of Planning Practice Guidance states:
‘Unmet housing need (including for traveller sites) is unlikely to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and other harm to constitute the “very special circumstances” justifying inappropriate development on a site within the Green Belt.’
As there are not unmet housing needs, across the Strategic Housing Market Area of Northumberland, or the Central Housing Market Area, the contribution of the proposed development to the delivery of housing is not a very special circumstance to justify granting permission for the development.
3. Highways Improvements:
Section 3.89 of the PS states:
‘The Transport Assessment has identified cumulative impacts are likely to occur at the town centre junctions as a result of committed development, planned growth and the combined effects of education reorganisation and new housing provision on the application site. Highways improvements have been proposed which would more than compensate for the impact of the planning application proposals and would, in effect, help deliver planned growth for Ponteland. This should be considered a benefit which would contribute to very special circumstances.
The submitted Transport Assessment identifies at section 1.1.5 that:
‘It is envisaged that the two development sites will be integrated to create a sustainable development that minimises the impacts on the surrounding and strategic road network.’
Whilst the two proposals are presented within the application documentation as being linked, the applications have been submitted separately, with no attempt to formally link them. As they are

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separate applications, there are a number of possible outcomes all of which have different implications, particularly around highways and traffic flows.
The highways improvements proposed do not form part of this planning application and therefore cannot be considered to be very special circumstances.
Accordingly, from the information submitted as part of the planning application, the very special circumstances necessary to justify a grant of planning permission for inappropriate development in the Green Belt do not exist.

Settlement boundary
Policy C1 of the CMLP deals with settlement boundaries, Policy PC1 specifically the settlement boundary of Ponteland. The application site lies outside the Ponteland settlement boundary.
Section 4.2 of the PS states:
‘Policies which propose the allocation of new housing or the restriction of new housing are particularly out of date.’
It is assumed that the inclusion of this statement is an attempt to explain why the applicant has not made any reference to the application site being located outside the defined Ponteland settlement boundary. However, the applicants’ assessment is incorrect. Policies which restrict new housing are only out of date where there is not a 5-year supply of housing land. As there is a 5-year supply, Policies C1 and PC1 still apply. The proposal is therefore not in accordance with these policies and should be refused.
4.0 Technical matters
In addition to the fact that the development is unacceptable in principle, the proposal gives rise to further concern in terms of the detailed impacts of the development, namely traffic impact, ecological impact, and limited and unknown contributions in advance of the Council’s adoption of CIL.
Traffic impact
The Town Council is greatly concerned about the impact of the development proposed on the safe and satisfactory operation of the local road network. The proposed development will place unnecessary strain on already congested roads.
The applicant’s statement within the PS suggesting that the sum of the educational and housing parts of the development will have less impact on traffic than in isolation makes little sense, particularly as the developments are not co-dependent. There is no guarantee that allowing housing will bring forward now or in the future the adjacent educational facilities. Nor will it reduce traffic impacts. There is nothing within the application for the educational facilities (reference 16/04576) that indicates that it is dependent on the 400 houses being given planning permission.

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The suggestion within the PS is that for this reason there is no significant harm arising that weighs against approving the scheme. However this is not the case, and there would be significant harm.
The proposed development will increase traffic on already congested roads, particularly within the town, and this in turn will harm the vitality and viability of the services there. These services would not be within easy walking distance from the 400 houses proposed as suggested within the applicant’s PS, many of the houses would be over a kilometre away, making short trips to the town, on foot, unlikely.
Environmental impact
It is of some concern that the cherished countryside which will be encroached upon by the development proposed, with significant visual impact, especially from Rotary Way and the numerous public footpaths in the area, will also have an ecological impact which is not outweighed by the benefits stated in the application.
For example, it is not known why April bird surveys were not carried out, the applicant relying on data for comparison which was collected almost 5 years ago, particularly when the number of species observed in the 2016 surveys has increased substantially.
No newt surveys were undertaken, despite the relative close proximity of the pond at the Middle School. Whilst this is located 270 metres from the site, Natural England recommends surveys where development occurs up to 500m from ponds. Given that a sizeable population has been identified, and there are limited alternative areas for newts to travel due to existing development close to the pond already, coupled with the scale of the development, a survey would seem appropriate in the circumstances. It is not agreed that the presence of Fairney Burn is a significant barrier to movement, as this is not a particularly large or fast moving river.
The visual and environmental impacts of the development, whilst can be partially mitigated, weigh against allowing development which is contrary to the adopted Development Plan. While relatively well contained visually with urban characteristics evident, this could be said of most edge of settlement sites, and in no way justifies an encroachment beyond settlement boundaries or which significantly and adversely affects the openness of the green belt.
Contributions
The applicant states that the submission of Heads of Terms of any s106 agreement will be negotiated and submitted once the application for planning permission has been submitted. However, this denies the local community the opportunity to view and comment on this document. Since its contents are suggested by the applicant to be central to the acceptability of the development in principle, and comprising the very special circumstances the applicant feels exists, in the interests of public involvement and transparency the application should not have been validated without this document.

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As has been stated in the preceding sections of this report, there is a lack of publicly available information about the funding options for the educational and leisure facilities and whether in fact this proposed development would ‘enable’ this development to progress. There is nothing within the application for the educational facilities (reference 16/04576) that indicates that it is dependent on the 400 houses being given planning permission and at the present time this application has not been determined.
Whilst this site is preferred in the emerging Core Strategy, there is no pressing need for the development at this stage, the application for planning permission for which is also in advance of the adoption of a CIL charging schedule, further limiting the benefit of contributions.
5.0 Conclusion
The proposed development would be seriously harmful to the Green Belt by reason of its inappropriateness and because it would significantly reduce its openness. The applicant has not demonstrated very special circumstances necessary to justify granting planning permission. It is therefore contrary to: Policies C16 and PC1 of the CMLP; Policies 24 and 26 of the emerging Core Strategy; and paragraph 88 of the NPPF.
The proposed development lies in the open countryside, outside the Ponteland settlement boundary. It is therefore contrary to Policies C1 and PC1 of the CMLP.
The presumption in favour of sustainable development set out in paragraph 14 of NPPF referred to in the applicant’s PS does not apply. This is because the policies contained within the adopted development plan are not absent, silent or out of date. NPPF and the presumption in favour of sustainable development does not change the statutory purpose of the development plan, and there are no material planning considerations carrying sufficient weight to justify development contrary to it at this stage.
The applicant’s statement at paragraph 3.94 of the PS that the benefits of the development outweigh its harm is incorrect. The benefits stated are unclear, there is no need for the development proposed, and there is no transparent or essential case made with regard to supporting community facilities that may otherwise be funded without the significant harm arising to the openness of the green belt. In turn, there would be significant harm to the countryside, green belt, the environment and highway network.
The application should therefore be refused.

 
 

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