DEVELOPMENT: Land can be safeguarded

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With regard to Murton Gap development, I think it is disingenuous of the council to say that it is “not planning to build thousands of houses, rather preparing to manage future planning applications from developers,” (News Guardian, October 13).

Its Local Plan makes provision for building 17,000-plus homes between 2011-32 and the council argues it needs this amount because of the increase in population it expects over the period.

The basis on which it has estimated the population increase is contestable – and will be contested at the upcoming public examination. I believe the decision to go for this figure, rather than a lower one, was a political one.

It was a pity that the council did not respond to the core of the report produced by Murton Action Group, which was about the threat to the health and wellbeing of the people who live around the Murton fields if the proposed development goes ahead.

Many people use the fields every day and get a great deal of benefit from doing this, both in terms of their physical health and their sense of wellbeing.

Being out in the open fields, observing the changes of the seasons, the birds and other wildlife is very relaxing and lifts the spirits. Without this bit of countryside on their doorstep people won’t have the incentive to go out as much.

With continuing concern about rising obesity levels and other demands on the health service, you would think that the council would want to protect this free and accessible green space for the thousands of residents who live around its perimeter in New York, Shiremoor and Monkseaton.

It is true that most of the land is owned by developers, but the council could have decided to keep it as ‘Safeguarded Land’ as it is at present, rather than allow the developers to go ahead with their plans for thousands of houses, albeit in a ‘managed’ way.

Penny Remfry

Whitley Bay