Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Trapped by the Planners

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Trapped by the Planners

Article excerpt

Families in a rural conservation village are demanding more information about plans to give their community added protection against changes that could harm its character.

A group of residents in Whalton, Northumberland, are angry they are being denied a public meeting to discuss a decision by council planning chiefs to impose new restrictions on people's rights to make alterations to their homes.

Some villagers say there is complete confusion about the potential impact of the Castle Morpeth Borough Council direction that covers about 50 properties in Whalton.

About 30 people have signed a petition calling for a public meeting, amid fears the move could even prevent them from changing their garden gates or fences without seeking formal approval from the council.

The direction removes people's permitted development rights and means they have to get permission from the borough council to carry out work which would change the traditional appearance of their homes.

Planners say it is needed to protect the historic character of the village and follows the installation of "inappropriate" features such as UPVC windows and doors in recent years.

But villagers say the same result could be achieved through a parish plan and village design statement, which would be more "community-based and democratic".

Yesterday mother-of-three Julie McGorie, of Manor Close, secretary of the Whalton residents' group, said: "A lot of people just don't have a clue why this is coming into force and the way it reads at the moment it means we can't even maintain our garden gate without getting approval.

"It seems ridiculous. All we want is a meeting in the village where the council can explain things to us. We are not against this idea in principle but we need to know how it works and what penalties people might face if they do work without permission. …

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