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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

Planning process must be tightened up on Duke's scheme

So did everyone have a good Christmas? Of course you did. Everybody says that. Bet it was 'quiet' as well – it's the same universally.

In saying that, there was big news in Prudhoe just before the festive season, when, through rigorous investigation, the talented and handsome reporter Robert Gibson unearthed the fact that the Cooperative Group has once again halted plans for the town centre revamp.

Remember in October when county councillors were due to make a decision on the Duke of Northumberland's controversial scheme, but the meeting was called off at the last minute because of 'late representations'?

Well, turns out those came from the Duke's old nemesis – and looking at them, it's amazing, to say the least, that nobody picked up on them before now.

Point one: the so-called 'non-technical' summary, submitted by the Northumberland Estates, failed in its fundamental role of making information understandable to the layman.

Point two: alternatives to the proposed scheme were never fully explored.

And Point three: cumulative impact was only considered in terms of 'mixed use development', rather than in terms of development as a whole (and there's a lot to consider when it comes to Prudhoe).

It's easy to point the finger at the Duke when it comes to such omissions, but its Northumberland County Council's officers who are – or should be – the experts.

Throughout the many years this application has been in the pipeline, it's astounding how often basic legislative requirements have been seemingly neglected by the authority, leaving it up to the public – or indeed the Co-op – to highlight were mistakes have been made.

If the Northumberland Estates are to be believed, a little extra work should suffice to bring the application before the council again soon.

Whatever happens at that point, the public – in particular the residents of Prudhoe – must be 100 per cent assured that it happened through a flawless planning process that is100 per cent in line with the law.

By Robin Gilson
Published: January 9, 2012

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