Greens raise concerns over Local Plan vision for 5,000 homes in South Tyneside after green belt plots allocated for housing

A council blueprint for the future of development in South Tyneside has been slammed by the borough’s Green Party for putting “profits before people and planet”.

In recent weeks, South Tyneside Council has been consulting on its draft local plan which will guide the future of the borough by setting out how and where development will take place.

The strategic document is expected to run until 2039 and ultimately has to be endorsed by a government-appointed planning inspector following a public examination before it can be adopted.

After being taken back to the drawing board by the council in 2021, the refreshed local plan proposes housing sites which could deliver more than 5,000 homes over the planning period.

Green Party councillor David Francis.

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While the majority of earmarked housing sites are linked to urban areas and brownfield sites, around 13 green belt sites have been identified to potentially deliver thousands of homes.

Council bosses are now collating feedback from a large public consultation exercise, which closed on August 14, 2022, which will help shape the next stage of the document.

South Tyneside Green Party, which has submitted a response to the draft local plan in the consultation, has urged the local authority’s ruling Labour Group to rethink the plan.

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In a public statement, the South Tyneside Green Party said the draft local plan “puts profits before people and planet” and that housing numbers proposed are “inflated” and based on “out-of-date population figures”.

The Greens also claimed plans would “give developers the green light to cash in on unnecessary and unwanted projects on green belt and open spaces” as well as impacting local health, transport and sewerage infrastructure.

Earlier this year South Tyneside Council’s leader, Cllr Tracey Dixon, confirmed enquiries had been made to the Government about the borough’s population data, including whether local plan housing numbers could be reduced.

But Green councillors still believe council bosses could do more to secure zero carbon homes for new developments alongside raising concerns that proposed housing sites would “threaten up to 1,500 mature trees”.

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The South Tyneside Green Party statement reads: “The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has stated that it’s ‘up to local authorities to determine their housing requirements and this includes taking local circumstances and restraints such as Green Belt into account.’

“Despite data from the Office of National Statistics clearly showing a steady decline in population numbers rather than an increase here in the borough, South Tyneside Council has opted for the maximum 15% allowance, meaning they are proposing 15% more housing, way above the target set by the Government.

“The council had the freedom to make this ‘buffer’ as low as 5% but instead chose to put the interests of developers ahead of the health and welfare of our communities.

“Lowering the number of houses would’ve ensured more of our precious Green Belt and open spaces would be protected for future generations.”

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The statement adds: “Going ahead with the plan in its current form would mean that the Labour-led council here would be failing to live up to the promises they made when signing up to the UK100 Pledge last year.”

South Tyneside’s Labour leaders have stressed that all comments received during the consultation period will be analysed and will “help inform the next stage of the plan”.

Councillor Margaret Meling, lead member for economic growth, skills and climate change, said: “Under current legislation, the council has a statutory obligation to produce and maintain a local plan.

“This must identify sufficient land to meet current and future housing targets set by government, which is 321 new homes every year.

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“That means the council must identify land where new homes could be built.

“The local plan will seek to find the most sustainable locations for development borough wide to meet future needs and will actively encourage building on brownfield, with a focus in the main urban area.

“The draft plan has just completed its first stage of consultation. We thank everyone who provided feedback during the public consultation period.

“All comments submitted will now be analysed and used to help inform the next stage of the plan and ultimately, the plan will be submitted to the Secretary of State for a public examination before an independent planning inspector.”

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More information about the local plan can be found on the council’s website here: www.southtyneside.gov.uk/article/36011/Local-Plan