The full proposals can be downloaded by clicking HERE. Alternatively, please visit our Proposed Sites page to view a summary.
For all the latest news on the STOP campaign, please see our blog posts below. You can read more About Us and how the campaign got started; discover How To Help and find Diary Dates for upcoming events.
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As you are probably aware by now, the Inspector who chaired the Public Inquiry has produced his preliminary report, and it has given the “green light” to almost all the proposed developments in Newcastle and Gateshead.
This is of course a severe disappointment to all of us who have campaigned over the last 3 years to save our Green Belt.
The Inspector did produce a list of amendments for the overall scheme and particular sites (the amendments for the two Throckley sites are copied below).
There is a period of Consultation on the amendments, open now, and closing on the 4th of January (responses must be on official forms-there are no consultation meetings).
The Umbrella organisation for all protest groups “Cities4People” met yesterday and agreed to respond to the consultation in another attempt he highlight the flaws in the proposals, although there was an acute sense of realism about the chances of success.
We expect the full report in the Spring and following adoption by the Council, applications for planning permission from developers.
This was always a “David and Goliath” scenario, but everyone involved feels we put maximum efforts into what is an unequal battle.
We will of course keep you fully informed about any future developments.
The Public Inquiry was reconvened at Gateshead Civic Centre on the 15th October. The main purpose was to allow the Inspector to confirm that the dispute between developers in relation to the Great Park had been resolved.
Both Councils and developers had agreed a position, which they presented to the Inquiry. The motivation for them was that the Inspector had indicated their dispute may prejudice the overall One Core Strategy.
From the protesters’ side including ourselves and the other groups, questioning revealed several ambiguities, including how firmly funding was in place to construct vital road links. It remains for the Inspector to consider how satisfied he is with the Council/developers joint position.
A recent planning advice from Government minister Eric Pickles seemed to suggest a more robust approach to restricting building on the green belt. The barrister representing the two Councils was strongly of the opinion that nothing substantial had changed.
The usual weasel words in the advice might suggest a change of tack, but it is up to the Inspector, and he may well be restricted to take account of the actual wording of Planning guidance.
Finally the Inspector indicated that he will most likely have his interim report ready by early November. If as is likely this contains modifications to the Councils’ Plan, there will be a further consultation period, which will be relatively short and will involve written submissions only..
We will aim to hold a meeting in November after the Inspector’s report is circulated and we all have had time to digest it.
The first two weeks looked at the bases and implications of the plan at a strategic level. Arguments concerned population statistics, economic forecasts, and traffic analyses, amongst other matters.
A comprehensive attack on the population estimates was made by 2 specialists from Cities 4 People. The Council’s expert explained their choice of base years which even to a non expert, seemed to have been selected to give the most promising outcome for the councils, i.e. a higher population projection.
The well argued case put forward by protestors is possibly our strongest hope for a reduction in scale of the proposed 30,000 additional houses. This will be one of the key points to look out for in the Inspector’s judgement.
Over economic issues, doubts were expressed by protestors about the likely prosperity in the coming years, affecting people’s ability to buy. That same week had seen the Governor of the Bank of England warn of interest rate rises, and many indicators suggest prosperity is not round the corner – the unemployment rate for our area has remained around 10% for several years. The council has ambitious targets for jobs growth but is competing with many other regions for inward investment.
The economic base for the One Core Strategy is optimistic, and when challenged, the Planners fall back on the assertion that “they can hardly plan for decline in a regional hub city like Newcastle/Gateshead” – difficult to disagree with, but as with the population forecasts, the Inspector will weigh up the quality of evidence.
A considerable amount of time was spent on traffic problems and how additional houses may affect these. A Highways Agency representative was present and the Councils’ own traffic planners. Despite strong arguments about existing and likely future congestion, their computer modelling seems always to suggest no significant problem. All developments now have to look to encourage pedestrian and cycle use, and Planners sought to suggest improvements in these travel routes would hopefully mean more journeys by these means, but the Inspector only has to drive round our hilly area with few dedicated cycle routes to see that 30,000 additional houses will create massive extra car journeys.
4th July 2014
The final day and the Inspector saw a re-run of the argument between Persimmon and Banks, with an inconclusive ending. They, like everyone else, live to fight another day.
Had battle fatigue set in? On paper the day should have been an innocuous tying up of loose ends, amendments and minor modifications to the OCS plan. As Council planners, developers and protestors gathered for the last day of a month long marathon, it was a shock when after around half an hour the Inspector was deliberating over suspending or adjourning the whole Inquiry to some future date.
This was the ongoing feud between Persimmon and Banks group, represented by Peter Jordan from Persimmon, and the Banks group’s Justin Hancock. Who would contribute to a road link the Inspector felt was needed to make Banks’ Western expansion site viable? And had implications for other areas? If the size of either site on its own did not justify a secondary school, what would happen to young people of that age?
A rehearsal of the day before’s positions did nothing to move to a solution, and at the point where the Inspector felt an adjournment was likely, the warring parties left the room to investigate if there was any common ground.
A significant debate then took place over the timing of the development proposals which may see housing start simultaneously across all earmarked sites across the Tyneside area.
3rd July 21014
This week saw the Newcastle sites under close discussion, with a range of controversial issues coming to the fore.
The three Callerton sites were on the agenda on Tuesday and this was comprehensively covered by the Journal the following day, including the fiasco over proposed access roads – sometimes called link roads, and even a bypass, characterised in the excellent Journal article as “the road to nowhere”!
Many protestors were present when Persimmon tried to bring the Salters Lane site back into the frame. Peter Jordan for Persimmon claimed that they have modified plans to accommodate wildlife and ecological issues.
Objectors reiterated concerns which had originally taken the site out of the O.C.S.
Sandy Irvine of the Green Party commented that “The Gosforth reserve is essential to the well being of Newcastle citizens”.
John Urquhart described it as “the Green lung of the City”.
1st July Throckley site specific session.
This was an exceptional day in many respects; the Inquiry room at 10am was already packed, people were standing, and around half an hour in, a young man at the back of the room was taken ill. Everyone cleared the room until paramedics came and eventually he was taken to hospital (later in the day it was reported no serious problem). The delay was around 1 hour.
This meant that the Callerton 3 site session, always going to be lengthy, was delayed and in fact discussion on aspects of these sites did not conclude until 4pm.
Newbiggin Hall came on the agenda before Throckley and though not represented by local people speaking, their Ward Councillor did a good job in presenting their concerns.
The Throckley session did not start until around 4.30pm and finished at 7pm.
Several Throckley residents had come after lunch to attend, as we anticipated this would be appropriate timing, but events interrupted that.
The Greenwich side were represented by at least 6 people including a barrister.
Once our turn came, Idwal began by outlining the various issues to be addressed, including traffic, community, recreation and flood risks. A key point we wanted to be covered was the issue of site access.
Can you help?
On Tuesday 1st July at the Public Inquiry, the S.T.O.P. Campaign is making it’s presentation to preserve the Green Belt. We will be opposed by the Council and Greenwich Hospital Trust.
A good turnout of supporters will add a lot of weight to our case.
Also, if you have anything to say about the housing proposals, this is the time to say it! The inspector to date has listened to all contributions.
We estimate that The Throckley proposals will not be reached until the afternoon session starting at 2.00pm in The Lamesley Room, Gateshead Civic Centre.
Please come and show that you care about our Greenbelt.
We hope to see you there.
Gateshead Sites – in depth examination – Tuesday 24th to Thursday 26th.
The sessions looked at a range of sites in Gateshead where housing development is proposed, including areas currently in the Green Belt.
The overall scale of the proposals became more apparent as the week went on and discussion of 500 additional houses at Crawcrook was followed by 100 or so in Highfield and 500 in Ryton. All in the Western semi-rural edge of Gateshead. In Chopwell, the scale of additional housing proposed would increase the size of the village by 50%.
One of the main issues in the discussion on Dunston Hill site was transport and the effects of massive additional traffic using the existing road infrastructure. Andy Blanchflower from the Save Dunston Hill campaign pointed out “the Park and Ride scheme identified is in an area totally surrounded by housing, unlike other examples such as Durham. Buses from this hub would hardly see an express route into central Gateshead and Newcastle without dedicated bus lanes, which are not envisaged.”
Transport difficulties in the area were again highlighted as Chopwell residents including Janet Byrne described the lengthy journeys they face if using public transport. Because of this, residents of proposed housing developments would inevitably use cars and this would add enormously to the pressure on roads. Chopwell residents pointed out that a brownfield site called Heartland had been waiting for development for many years, and the community preference would be to see that developed before any Greenfield sites.
Congestion at major junctions was highlighted when the Ryton proposals were discussed. Comments were made from protestors including Dr. Roger Snodin about the existing congestion at Blaydon roundabout.
He observed “a common sense view would predict that this congestion must get worse if more than a thousand homes are built in the Gateshead villages to the West. And that figure does not include other proposals in Northumberland such as 400 houses on the Prudhoe Hospital site. Most journeys to work will be on the current West/East road network”
A council transport planner asserted that the forecasting model used to predict how traffic would react showed that queueing at the roundabout, following proposed developments would not be significantly worse!
The STOP campaign has received another approach from the Greenwich Hospital trust repeating its offer of a meeting. This time it was by letter from the Head of Property. She suggested that there had been changes in personnel at the Trust and that she had been in post only since May 2013.
The letter was accompanied by an email version sent by their agent at Smiths Gore, the very same agent who withheld key information when we did meet with him in March 2012.
The offer was again rejected for the same reasons as previously.
It has been suggested that this sudden interest in the community, is perhaps the result of a loss in confidence of their own position. We shall see.
At the Public Inquiry on Friday, the STOP campaign was approached by a consultant, acting on behalf of Greenwich Hospital Trust. He made an offer of a meeting with a senior executive of the Trust.
He suggested they wanted to open a dialogue with local residents on community involvement in development planning after the inclusion of the site(s) in the plan.
This offer was firmly rejected for the following reasons:
- In the past Greenwich representatives have not acted in good faith.
- They have failed over the last 3 years to communicate with us.
- Recent revelations re Hexham Rd give us no confidence in their openness.
- We do not accept the premise that the proposals will be in the plan.
- We are fully committed to our campaign to get these plans rejected.
The consultant was advised to contact us again after the inspector’s report has been published.
10th, 11th and 12th June 2014
We are nearing the end of the second week of the Public Inquiry into the One Core Strategy into Newcastle/Gateshead’s proposals for 30,000 new houses, many on the Green Belt. The importance of this Inquiry not only relates to the scale of changes which these areas might see, but it is the first Inquiry of this nature in the North East and will set the scene for the examination of schemes in Durham, Northumberland and other adjacent authorities.
How will transport, particularly road networks stack up against the challenge?
At the hearing, a Highways Agency representative presented the planned improvements to the A1 Western Bypass and was questioned closely by speakers from Cities for People including Andy Blanchflower and Shirley Ford from the Tyne and Wear Transport Users Group.
Some money has been earmarked already for the A1 but protestors observed that other locations in the country were also congestion hotspots, and future funding is not guaranteed. Harvey Emms from Newcastle Council agreed that a better scheme was a major redesign costing an unaffordable £1.7 billion, and that what is now being proposed is what can be delivered.
The improvements consist of trying to improve traffic flows through congestion hotspots such as past the Metrocentre. But will these be sufficient to cope with increased pressure on the A1 as a result of traffic from the 2/3 car households proposed for developments, mainly to the west of both Newcastle and Gateshead, and journeys by car using the A1 to access both the City Centre and the East where the jobs are?
Jim Cousins, former MP for Newcastle observed “The piecemeal 3 lanes on certain sections and reduced speed limits will hardly meet the challenge for current, let alone future flows!”
The proposed link road between the A69 and the A696 (Throckley roundabout to the Airport) was challenged on several fronts:
- Its introduction into the public debate was severely flawed.
- The road itself involves more green belt deletions adding to the 9.7% of Green Belt already under threat because of the 30,000 houses proposed in the plan.
Shirley Ford felt that insufficient work had been done on the health dangers of road schemes where there were already air pollution issues: “The plan is unsound, possibly even negligent. A positive plan would include work to assess air quality issues” she suggested to the Inspector.
Ron Bright from Ryton and Andy Blanchflower pointed out that similar issues related to Gateshead i.e. the A695, A692 and A694 are all already struggling to cope with existing traffic.
Praiseworthy aims by the Councils to introduce measures to increase journeys by foot, public transport and bicycle can’t avoid the reality that travel to work on Tyneside is, in the main, by car.
Some humour was introduced into the session when several planners and developers talked about their own journeys into work by bicycle. Pat McGee from Cities for People pointed out that unlike Holland we are not a flat cycle friendly area, and that the Inspector could note for himself as he undertakes site visits, how many women or somewhat older people could be seen negotiating our busy roads and inadequate cycle network to get to work! Richard Cowen from CPRE pointed out that painting a white line down the side of a road is never going to encourage a massive shift to cycling.
Yesterday evening’s meeting at the Throckley Bank Top club was extremely well attended by concerned local residents.
It was immediately apparent that some people only became aware of the proposals recently, therefore Idwal began by outlining how the campaign started back in October 2011 and what has happened since. He explained that we are now beyond protests, petitions, etc. and into a Public Inquiry. This is taking place during June and July in Gateshead Civic Centre and has so far focused on the broader aspect of all proposed developments across Newcastle and Gateshead.
A session specific to the Throckley sites is provisionally scheduled for July 1st and there are three possible outcomes:
1) The Inspector accepts the Greenwich Hospital submission and we move to the planning phase. Newcastle City Council will then have to decide whether or not to grant permission on their own development.
2) The Inspector is not satisfied by one or more aspects of the submission and the plan will have to be re-worked. At present, there is a possibility that he may not be happy with the preferred access to Site A. Greenwich Hospital will then have to come up with alternative solutions such as re-attempting to secure the brick works or finding another access point before re-submitting the plan.
3) The Inspector throws out the submission altogether and deems the site non-viable. In this case, it will STOP and go no further. It seems that this is the least likely outcome, unless we can come up with a cast iron valid reason why this cannot proceed, backed up with documented evidence, preferably from a professional.
Many people in the room were quick to come up with reasons as to why it should not go ahead, including the following:
- Increased traffic in the area
- Lack of infrastructure (shops, doctors, schools, etc.)
- Safety of horse riders, children, walkers, etc.
- Loss of wildlife habitat
- Flooding from the point where surface water is discharged
- Archaeological interest
- Geological issues
- And many more
Most of these reasons were put forward during the Consultation and subsequently ignored by Newcastle City Council. Greenwich Hospital have also engaged experts, including a Barrister, to answer these points so they are likely to satisfy the Inspector. A couple of other opinions were put forward yesterday evening to do with the ownership of the land and the bridleway that may be worth further investigation.
One thing Idwal made clear is that people turning up to the Inquiry on July 1st and voicing their opinions (in the same way as they did yesterday evening) is welcome and may carry some weight but it is highly unlikely to wash with the Inspector. To repeat point 3) above:
We need at least one cast iron valid reason why this cannot go ahead, backed up with documented evidence, preferably from a professional.
By professional, I’m referring to a Solicitor, Geologist, Archaeologist, Planning Consultant, Health & Safety expert, Environmentalist, etc.
If the point is valid, the Inspector will listen, take it on board and hopefully put a STOP to this now. Some of the issues previously raised could still be valid if looked at in detail and presented correctly.
So the question is, CAN ANYONE HELP? If you think you have a valid reason, can you dig a bit deeper and back it up? If you work in one of the professions above or you know someone who does, can you justify any of the arguments already made or find a new one? If you can do this, speaking at the Inquiry on our behalf and presenting your case would also be appreciated but Idwal could do this for you if necessary. Please drop us a line if you think you can help. An overview of your reason and how it can be proven would be useful:
You can also help by emailing all your contacts a link to this page or sharing the link posted on our FACEBOOK page.
If we fail at the Inquiry, we still have time to justify one or more reasons during the planning phase or if there is a re-submission by Greenwich Hospital. However, I’m sure there are many among us who would rather this STOPPED on July 1st but we need firm evidence from credible authors to make an impact.
5th and 6th June 2014
LOSS OF GREEN BELT
Campaigners were astonished to learn that the full loss of Green belt across the 2 boroughs will be 10%. John Urquhart (Save Gosforth Wildlife) commented that this was “a devastating loss.”
The Inspector raised queries over certain sites in the Newcastle plan and whether they were deliverable to the timescale indicated. Mostly these were confirmed with supporting information from Planners.
When discussion turned to the former Water Treatment Works in Throckley, a sizeable site fronting the main road which is derelict. Although the Inspector felt the Council were correct in indicating this could not be developed in the early years of the Plan, Idwal John of STOP (Throckley) pointed out that: “Should adjacent Green field developments, that are more attractive to developers, go ahead at an early stage, there is likelihood that, this eyesore site may never be developed”.
The research of Gateshead Protest Groups Representatives, Ron Bright from Ryton and Andy Blanchflower (Save Dunston Hill) had identified several Brownfield sites not selected for inclusion in the Plan. These potential sites would significantly reduce the need for Green sites and the Inspector confirmed that he will consider them, and include some in his site visits.
Former Birtley Councillor Kathy King made a telling point when she observed that: “the old railway marshalling yard at Birtley a brown field site, which was a few years ago much promoted as the location for the then anticipated Hitachi factory, is now according to the Council not suitable for development!”
4th June 2014
Shock! Protest Groups agree with Council Planners….
At least on one part of the plan.
The Inspector wanted clarification of the Council’s idea about phasing the release of Green Belt sites especially in the first 5 years. This objective is to allow the opportunity to review the combination of green and brownfield sites to be delivered at future stages, thus ensuring that brownfield sites are used first.
The developers argued against this approach, and tried to defend their option of a complete “free for all” if the Plan goes forward.
Jill Burrell from Cities for People strongly emphasised the negatives of allowing all sites to come forward at the outset and quoted examples from Kingston Park and the Great Park about problems likely to ensue.
3rd June 2014
A packed meeting room in Gateshead Civic Centre saw the opening of the Public Inquiry into the Newcastle Gateshead One Core Strategy.
The Inspector, Martin Pike, led the discussion which essentially puts the Council Planning Officers and the developers’ representatives, including 2 barristers on one side, with the Protest Groups on the other.
The morning session centred on whether the councils had consulted adequately with their own residents and whether they had come to necessary agreements with adjacent Local Authorities. The Council Planners struggled to make their case with many local residents from Chopwell, Callerton,Throckley and Ryton underlining the ineffective consultation which failed to inform most residents adequately. The result being that most residents got up to date and comprehensive information from their respective Protest Group.
The afternoon saw the Council planners defending their position that not enough suitable brownfield sites are available, with a not surprising echo of this theme from the developers’ representatives.
We now have sight of the full Greenwich Hospital submission to the Planning Inspector, and it confirms all the aspects we have warned about.
The Document can be accessed by clicking HERE. This is a large file so you will need to be patient.
They introduce what they call a “Masterplan” which comprises:
Site A already in the One Core Strategy, available for 550 houses and Site B (in their ownership) to the west of Site A leading to the Frenchman’s. Also 550 houses suggested here which they feel “illustrates how a logical and sustainable residential extension of Throckley could be arranged to integrate with the wider context, respond to local distinctiveness and character and be fully accessible whilst having an overall positive impact on the well being and long term sustainability of the settlement of Throckley”.
Site A if planning permission granted could start around 2015. 60% family housing, some larger houses and 20-30% smaller houses. Any affordable housing would be negotiated between developer and Newcastle City Council.
They all but rule out access via the brickworks as the owners will not sell the required land. They also rule out the access off Hexham Road via Fernhill (in their ownership) because they would have to pay off the PFI contract on the school field.
Therefore their preferred access option is via demolishing 234 and 236 Hexham Road (in their ownership) and creating an access road behind the houses fronting Hexham Road to get into Site A. They suggest a loop bus route and of course this would conveniently allow access to Site B if they ever get this under way. They admit this access would be on the Green Belt.
The Document can be accessed by clicking HERE. This is a large file so you will need to be patient.
The public inquiry starts next Tuesday in Gateshead Council’s Civic Centre at 10am. It will meet on the following dates:
3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th
10th, 11th, 12th, 13th
24th, 25th, 26th, 27th
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
Pat and Idwal representing the STOP campaign are attending all sessions and have secured speaking rights on all the parts relevant to our area.
We welcome anyone wishing to join us for any of the morning or afternoon sessions. Please give us a call on 0191 264 2688.
Additionally we are part of the “umbrella group” of objectors “Cities 4 people” and will have an input via them.
Thank you to everyone who voted for Idwal in the local elections. With 6 candidates in the race, dominated by National events, it was always going to be a tough fight. The 149 votes received show that there is still strong opposition to the council’s plans to destroy our greenbelt and ruin our community.
10 reasons why I am standing in the Local Election
- Our Labour council wants to build on the Green Belt.
- The Tories and the Lib. Dems. at the National level legislated to allow destruction of our green belt.
- I am standing as a representative of the STOP campaign fighting to protect green spaces.
- We must save our wildlife and recreational spaces.
- Brownfield sites must be used first, yet the plans are to start to destroy green fields first.
- 600 “executive” houses in Throckley will do nothing to meet local needs
- We need starter homes and social housing not 4 bedroom houses.
- This is not a “done deal” and-it can be stopped.
- I am active in the community helping to strengthen its bonds.
- As a retired College lecturer I feel that I am well qualified to represent our community on all issues.
The pace has stepped up over the campaign against the One core Strategy housing proposals. The Public Inquiry starts soon on June 3rd, coming hard on the heels of the local elections taking place on May 22nd.
Your choice between 6 candidates in Newburn Ward will be narrowed as Idwal is standing again, as an Independent, representing the STOP campaign. Essentially this is meant to be a focus for voters to reflect their concern over the Labour Council’s ruthless commitment to building houses right across the Green west of the City to meet developers’ wishes and not real local housing need.
Idwal and Pat attended the introductory meeting held by the Public Inquiry Inspector at Gateshead Civic Centre on Friday 25th. Many other protest groups from Gateshead and Newcastle were also there. This meeting was largely setting out procedure, the main meetings start on June 3rd and go on for around four weeks. If you have submitted comments in the past, you will receive a timetable shortly.
Anyone can attend and observe, but the Inspector will schedule attendance by participants who he wishes to take part in the discussion of issues. He will visit sites, but unaccompanied. There will be an allocated time for the discussion of the Throckley site proposals.
The umbrella group of all the Newcastle protesters, Cities 4 People is meeting on Tuesday evening. Idwal and pat are attending and will report via email any further relevant information.
We welcome any questions or comments.
Please help to save our village and it’s open spaces.
VOTE IDWAL JOHN ON MAY 22ND AND URGE YOUR NEWBURN FRIENDS AND NEIGHBOURS TO DO THE SAME.
ALL OUR LABOUR COUNCILLORS HAVE BACKED THE HOUSING PROPOSALS.
Thank you for all your support.