Comments on the Local Plan Consultation Document taking place in the Autumn

First of all I cannot pay justice to 2 lengthy reports without boring you to death! I will make some general comments but I strongly advise you all to look at the full reports on line, entitled ‘Local Plan Issues and Strategic Options’ and ‘Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report’. Both can be downloaded from here.

These two reports form the framework for years to come around housing supply, types of housing required, and employment requirements. Development with character but balanced with growth and conservation. Together with protecting the green belt, enabling growth of our university, maintaining open space and supporting our rural villages.

Potentially there is sufficient employment land to sustain proposed growth, the issue is it in the right location and the right type and quality of land? We have built new offices, warehouses etc but at a cost of existing space being lost where some would say houses could be built. Do we have enough industry in Newcastle or do we in order to increase prosperity and job creation need more? Do we need more houses to support a higher population and more diverse labour market? What option for growth is the most appropriate to use? Over to you to officially respond to the consultation process!

What are we doing to protect the green belt?

National policy  does give great importance to protecting green belt land in order to prevent over spill into rural areas, but the dilemma is, have we enough brown field sites within the Borough to develop to meet our needs. Most would say no but it is up to you the public to identify sites which could be built on to protect the green belt. We as Liberal Democrats want to protect our green spaces, rightly so, but do we want growth as well? The Council are wanting to exhaust non green belt sites first and are now starting to look at decontamination of land in order to use it. A call for sites process is now in operation. Planners are wanting us to give an opinion on what sites can be made available for developing and what sites we the public want saving in the green belt. My advice is we do need to be objective if we are naming a site not to be developed, and there are some, we need to also look at alternative suggestions. Infrastructure around the sites is a consideration, schools, retail, health centres, transport options and exploring the optimum possibilities around walking and cycling etc. Off balance between larger sites being a bigger blot on the landscape; and concentrating development in one place. The greenbelt does encompass a significant proportion of the Borough’s land. I quote Audley as an example, it is entirely in a  Greenbelt area. To release its land from the Greenbelt may well mean potential heritage problems and does it meet the preserving of rural area character? Does Audley have the transport mechanism and supporting services around the area to sustain development? Should development in the rural area be spread equally across the rural centres. If not how should growth be distributed in the rural area? Likewise should the Keele University growth corridor be included in our plan with the rationale behind our thoughts.

For you to decide!

Gypsy and Travellers are part of our community, do we as a Borough have sufficient sites for them? Do we have suggestions for potential sites which are deliverable if we deem we do not have sufficient sites already?

Affordable housing. What is our expectation? Do we meet government targets, should the local plan set an alternative target and how would we justify that.  How do we address the needs of the growing elderly population in Newcastle and the needs of the disabled?

What are our thoughts on development boundaries? Where do we draw the line between development and preserving the countryside? Where do village envelopes start and finish? Should boundaries be reviewed and should this be part of the Local plan?

Retail and Town Centre Regeneration. How do we address the continuing competition between face to face shopping and on line shopping? What are the alternative uses for premises which are no longer needed for retail? What do we want to see on our high streets, where does out of town shopping fit in?

Where do our recreational faculties fit in across the Borough, and what do we want? How are we going to put heart back into areas like Chesterton, Kidsgrove, Knutton? What are our suggestions to be included in the plan?

How do we address pollution, water and environmental air quality issues, as a result of any proposed development or even existing ones? As part of the local plan what do we want included?

Do we want a local policy on heritage, what should it contain? Do we include conservation areas, listed buildings, archaeology? How do we address issues with sites at risk? Do we consider the setting of historic buildings and the wider historic landscape? What measurers are most appropriate to sustain, enhance and avoid harm to the significance of heritage assets?

How do address flood risk measurements in this document? What policies do you want to see to mitigate against residual risk, improved emergency planning and flood awareness?

What recommendations need to be addressed with regard to our adopted Open space strategy and green infrastructure strategy? How do we want to manage our land? What do we want to see as part of open space provision in new developments?

Transport Network. What do we want to see included with regard to electric charging points? Is a policy required to contain the best approach to effectively promoting sustainable transport? Should anticipated parking standards be included, should the role of key routes and motorway networks within the borough be made explicit?

Finally, what would you like to see in a plan on renewable energy, for example should large developments be expected to provide a certain proportion of its energy via renewable or low carbon technology? What other carbon reducing measures do we want as a party?

Enough here to think about! As I said earlier please look at the entire document to get a better idea and please do respond to the consultation in the Autumn.

Marion Reddish.

Liberal Democrat Councillor in Newcastle.

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