Angry residents opposed to plans to build thousands of new homes in North Tyneside are preparing for the next stage of their battle against the proposals.
People living in Murton and surrounding area have hit out at North Tyneside Council for earmarking more than 3,000 new homes in fields around the village as part of its Local Plan.
Murton Action Group says any such plan would add to traffic problems, destroy historic features and remove an area of natural countryside.
Over the summer, members spoke to more than 300 people using the fields and local cycle and footpaths.
Now the group is planning to put its objections at a public examination, due to be held in November.
Ed Williams, group chairman, said: “We recognise that some new housing in the borough is needed but we believe that the council’s estimates of population growth and the housing needed to accommodate it is greatly exaggerated.
“Because the Murton fields are surrounded by longstanding residential communities the size of the proposed development is not realistic.
“It will have a detrimental impact on local people’s sense of community and their health and wellbeing. It will also bring hundreds of additional cars onto already congested roads.”
But a spokesperson for North Tyneside Council said the authority was not planning to build thousands of houses, rather preparing to manage future planning applications from developers.
“National government policy dictates that each local authority must produce a local plan and one that prepares for growth. These plans must include identifying possible sites – both public and private – to meet the growing demands for housing, the economy, community facilities and infrastructure. The Government has made it very clear that if a local authority doesn’t produce a local plan, it will intervene and produce one on its behalf,” the spokesperson said.
“The council is not proposing to build thousands of houses – we are, through the plan, preparing to manage the inevitable planning applications from developers. With a local plan, decisions about planning applications can consider local circumstances and priorities, not just national guidance. Without one, we are less likely to be able to successfully reject planning applications that we believe are wrong for North Tyneside.
“The challenge for us has been making sure that we meet the Government’s requirements for growth while balancing the views of residents and protecting North Tyneside as an attractive, thriving borough in which to live and work. Over the last two years, there has been a huge amount of engagement on the North Tyneside Local Plan and we are pleased that large numbers of people have had their say.
“We would like to reassure residents that the plan protects the borough and prepares it for the future. Only half of the land at Murton Gap has been identified for housing and plans also include wildlife areas, buffer zones, cycle ways, roads and infrastructure, community facilities and a new primary school as well as space for agricultural use.
“The final plan is subject to an inspection by the Government in November. Residents were encouraged to respond to the last stage of public consultation on the Local Plan in late 2015 and the views of those who responded to that consultation will be considered by the Government’s Planning Inspector.”
The Murton Action Group will be holding a public meeting at the New York Social Club on October 25, at 7pm at which copies of a report it has produced will be available.
It plans to bring local residents up to date about the public examination and the range of issues which local groups will be raising.
One concern for the Murton Action Group is that the loss of the Murton fields would take away a free ‘green gym’ which is used by hundreds of local people every day.
One resident said: “Having these beautiful fields on our doorstep was a deciding factor in buying the house we did.
“I’ve loved coming into these fields once or twice a day, seeing the changes as the seasons change. So peaceful and a great stress relief.”