A COUNCIL draft plan on the development of South Tyneside over the next 20 years has sparked fresh fears on the future of green belt sites.
Coun Steve Harrison claims questions posed as part of South Tyneside Council’s Local Plan do not leave residents with enough options to reject potential green belt developments.
Details about the plan are contained in the latest council newsletter, posted out to thousands of homes across the borough.
The row comes just weeks after plans for a 50-metre meteorological mast near Laverick Hall Farm, in Laverick Lane, West Boldon, were rejected by the council’s planning committee, following objections from residents and local councillors.
It was feared the mast could trigger a bid for a wind turbine farm development on green belt land near Fellgate Estate, Jarrow.
The bid came six years after people in Fellgate and Hedworth ward staged a successful fight against a controversial business park scheme on the same green belt.
The council’s online Local Plan questionnaire states: “Development usually takes place on ‘brownfield’ land (land that has previously been built on).
“However, there are times when brownfield land is not attractive or suitable for development, or the costs of development may be prohibitively high.
“It may sometimes therefore be necessary to build on some ‘greenfield’ sites – such as open spaces, playing fields or agricultural land – that are of poor quality, underused or no longer required, to help provide the development necessary to meet our growth aspirations and needs.”
The questionnaire then lists three options, one stating “brownfield sites should be developed first,” before building takes place on greenfield land, but two other options, one stating “some development should be allowed on greenfield sites” and another suggesting that “some development should be allowed” until brownfield sites become “financially possible.”
The wording raised issues for Independent Coun Harrison, who said: “I’m very concerned about the way questions are posed in the council’s Local Plan, which seems to leave little or no space for people to reject green belt developments.
“I think the council should redraft this document, to give residents the opportunity to state, loud and clear, that they are opposed to developments on green belt sites, such as the one next to the Fellgate Estate.”
Coun Harrison added: “We have just fought the battle over the mast and I would not like to see any more threats to the green belt at Fellgate in years to come.
“I’m also concerned that most of the consultation involves going online, which means many pensioners without a computer will not be able to take part.”
A series of public exhibition events about the Local Plan are being held across South Tyneside, including one at Jarrow Library, in Cambrian Street, on Saturday, April 6, between 1pm and 4pm, where council officers will be on hand to talk about future planning issues.
Coun Harrison said: “I would hope people opposed to green belt developments will go along to the session at Jarrow Library and make their views known.”
Questionnaires about the Local Plan are available by visiting www.southtyneside.info/localplan, where people can access a ‘what are your thoughts’ section.
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “We are currently consulting residents about the new Local Plan. Part of the preparation process involves identifying sufficient land to provide for future needs for homes and job opportunities.
“We are therefore asking the public, as part of this consultation, to provide their views on potential options, if we do need to consider releasing any green belt land in order to provide for future developments.
“The questionnaire gives the public an opportunity of providing their thoughts, which could include saying no to further land being released from the green belt.”