Today we witnessed a travesty in terms of both natural justice and democratic process in relation to planning for the future of Morpeth. The County Council’s Strategic Planning Committee today was “minded to approve” the Mitford Estates planning application for land West of Lancaster Park, despite valiant efforts by objectors and a passionate defence of the Neighbourhood Plan by Cllr Andrew Tebbutt, a member of the Committee. The Town Council has requested that the Secretary of State consider calling this in so he can make the final decision, so perhaps all is not yet lost. However, it was sickening to watch and be unable to respond to the ludicrous claims made and partial explanations given. One Councillor queried what the “theme” of the Neighbourhood Plan was. The misleading answer given was to “urgently” create employment opportunities. That was part of a much wider “vision” of the Neighbourhood Plan, which was about facilitating sustainable and balanced growth whilst protecting the character and setting of our ancient market town.
It was desperately disappointing to see how the final voting stacked up. We could have won this, but three of the four Tory members voted to approve the application. I know that there can be no party “whip” in relation to planning decisions, but so much for Tory claims that they do not want overdevelopment in Morpeth!
My main concern is for all the work put in and the support provided by the community, particularly the time and effort by the Plan Preparation Group, who worked their socks off to produce this plan. My heartfelt thanks go to them yet again. We must not just give in, but continue to fight for our little corner of the world and what we believe to be right.