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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Boredom, frustration and embarrassment... just part of the planning process

SO Northumberland Estates and Northumberland County Council have come under fire again over the Duke of Northumberland’s redevelopment plans for Prudhoe town centre.

This time round, their joint misdemeanour involves refusing to turn out at a town council meeting to clarify some technical points before members give their views on the new scheme.

On the face of it, their reluctance makes sense.

After all, even if public consultation has been lacking on occasion, the scheme has been discussed at length.

Likewise, while objectors have, in my view, conducted themselves well at such meetings, they’ve hardly got a reputation for giving proponents an easy ride.

But look at what the town council wanted to know: could anything be done to stop elderly West Wylam residents having to make a huge detour to access the new development, given the proposed ‘acoustic barrier’?

Had anyone considered possible underground streams? Had traffic flow been analysed properly?

There’s nothing antagonistic about these questions - they’re legitimate matters of public interest and should be easily addressed by those with detailed knowledge of the development.

I sympathise with Northumberland Estates - it must be boring, frustrating and sometimes embarrassing to be grilled repeatedly by a hostile public over a scheme that’s been years in the making.

But developers must be prepared to be bored, frustrated and embarrassed - time and time again.

They must be willing to be vilified, to be hassled and halted, and to answer moronic questions along with the shrewd, public spirited and well-informed.

It is, after all, only through showing total openness and approachability that the developer can reassure Prudhoe residents they’re getting the whole story.

By Robin Gilson
Published: April 19, 2012

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