Calls to protect green belt under vision for South Tyneside's future

The Green Party has urged council bosses to protect green spaces from development under major housing plans.

Tuesday, 3rd September 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 3rd September 2019, 12:45 pm
South Shields Town Hall

In August, town hall chiefs approved the latest stage of the South Tyneside local plan which aims to build almost 5,000 homes by 2036.

The draft plan will go through several rounds of public consultation before it is handed over to government for a final assessment.

Currently, several green belt sites are outlined for development after planners accepted it would not be ‘feasible” to restrict works to brownfield sites only.

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Green Party councillor David Francis

According to a council report, the plan proposes to “redraw the green belt” to deliver 2,391 homes.

Green Party campaigners have now called for a rethink stating green spaces provide many benefits for communities.

This includes flood prevention, food production and improved mental health – with plants, trees and grassland also absorbing carbon dioxide to help combat climate change.

The campaigners say pressures to meet “unrealistic government housing targets” have seen councils develop on green spaces while brownfield sites are available.

Councillor John Anglin

In South Tyneside, they have claimed the local plan clashes with a recent council ‘climate emergency’ pledge to reduce carbon emissions.

Green Party councillor David Francis, who launched the climate motion earlier this year, said many residents are worried about the housing blueprint.

“In the last few years we have seen school closures in the area and a reduction in services at our local hospital,” he said.

“People are now asking if we will be able to cope with the increase in demand for services like these.

“Another thing that many people have brought up is the amount of green belt land that could be lost.

“There are over 113 hectares of green belt land earmarked for development – shockingly, that’s an area nine times the size of the Bents Park.”

He went on to say:”Protecting green spaces is essential on both a local and global level.

“Local people need access to green spaces for their own physical and mental health, and green spaces and trees must be protected in order to help tackle climate change.”

Council bosses have previously said the green belt will be a challenge for the local plan but added the document was in its early stages.

Earmarked sites are mainly on land adjacent to the villages of Cleadon, Boldon, and Whitburn and south of South Shields and Fellgate.

Lead member for regeneration and economy, Coun John Anglin, said the council have a legal obligation to meet housing and employment needs and were “looking at all options to accommodate development”.

He added development proposals in the local plan equate to less than 5% of the total green belt – and would leave a “substantial area” of green belt in the borough of around 2,231 hectares

Coun Anglin added: “While we appreciate that residents’ concerns will be focused around new development, the draft plan also has a range of policies which seek to protect and enhance green infrastructure, protect trees and woodland, increase tree planting, support renewable energy, prevent development from increasing flood risk and improve air quality.

“No final decisions have been made and the feedback received during the consultation period will be used to further refine proposals, which will then again be consulted upon.

“Ultimately, the plan be submitted to the secretary of state for a public examination before an independent planning inspector.”

South Tyneside residents are encouraged to have their say on the draft local plan with a range of community drop-in events in coming weeks.

The consultation will run until October 11.

A final decision is expected to be made following a public probe into the plan in mid-2021.