Input will be encouraged

I refer to the comments of Mr Wakeling on your letters page about the Northumberland Core Strategy consultation, (Berwick Advertiser, March 10).

Friday, 1st April 2016, 12:00 pm

I can assure Mr Wakeling that there is no conspiracy, but rather robust plans for a further genuine consultation on a document that is critical to the future prosperity of the whole of Northumberland.

He is right that the core strategy is an important document, and we have recognised this throughout the process in the way that we have consulted with residents and stakeholders and taken their views on board.

In fact, some of the modifications that will be proposed have been prompted by listening to issues raised by respondents.

The document has already been through five stages of consultation, more than required in legislation, and in each case we have promoted it extensively and made information widely available, including on three occasions delivering a leaflet to every address in the county. We have also held public events at venues throughout Northumberland.

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The major modifications to the core strategy are a necessary additional stage to the process and needed so that we can be absolutely certain that the document is sound and right for the county over the next 15 years.

We acknowledge that summer is a busy time for people, but the consultation will be open for six weeks, and we will again ensure that it is widely promoted and that people are encouraged to get involved.

Several thousand members of the public have registered on our consultation system and receive advance notice of each consultation by email.

The council is investing heavily in broadband communications, which is having a positive impact across Northumberland.

If we were to delay this extra consultation beyond the summer, the adoption date would be delayed, which would be unacceptable to many people and organisations who want to see it in place at the earliest possible date, giving certainty for the future of our communities, environment and economy.

I also reject Mr Wakeling’s comments about the planning process.

We want a planning system that supports communities in delivering positive change for the future.

We have reviewed it to make sure that it is fit for purpose, turned around the time taken to determine applications and also streamlined and improved the decision making process.

It most certainly does not preclude community input, which we greatly welcome.

Coun Allan Hepple

Cabinet member for Economic Growth

Northumberland County Council