Conservative Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Greg Clark has today rejected a controversial appeal by Lugano to build 280 homes on the outskirts of Darras Hall in Northumberland.
Local MP and well known greenbelt campaigner Guy Opperman welcomed the Secretary of State's decision as a "victory for local democracy", which he said demonstrated "the Conservatives clear commitment to protecting our greenbelt."
A decision on the appeal had been pending since a planning hearing in January, at which Mr Opperman spoke passionately against Lugano's plans.
Commenting on the rejection of the appeal Mr Opperman said "As a well known campaigner to protect our greenbelt I am immensely proud that the Conservative Secretary of State has taken the decision to reject this appeal. It demonstrates the Conservatives clear commitment to protect our greenbelt. The fact that as local campaigners we have been able to fight off theses plans by a multi million pound developer is a victory for local people and out community. It really is a victory for local democracy."
Mr Opperman has been a fierce opponent of Lugano, with the firm even threatening the MP with legal proceedings, in a bitter dispute over the future of the greenbelt around Ponteland which has rumbled since 2012.
Mr Opperman said "I has always remained very hopeful that Lugano’s appeal would be thrown out, and today those of us who have battled so long and so hard, will take a huge sigh of relief. There always have been very clear and objective planning grounds on which this application to build on the Ponteland greenbelt should be rejected. We have all worked tirelessly with local campaigners to make representations and I am so pleased our arguments have been listened too."
Speaking at the Planning Inquiry earlier this year Mr Opperman told the Planning Inspector "My frustration, and much of that of the local communities, is rooted in the opinion that this is a purely ‘speculative’ planning application in our greenbelt, timed in what is, in my opinion, an attempt to circumvent the democratic local plan process. Local Plans are designed to allow our local people in our communities to help the Council set its planning policies, which will then serve as the basis for how the Council decides planning applications."
Councillor Peter Jackson, who represents Ponteland South said "The local community here really has united in an extraordinary way. United in a battle against big developers seeking to cash in on our precious greenbelt. There is no doubt in my mind that the campaign we have fought has made all the difference and hopefully protected our community for many years to come."
Ponteland Greenbelt Group, set up by local residents, also fought the scheme which they claimed would “change the special and unique characteristics of our community.”