Work is still in progress
In my opinion, Peter Jackson is wrong to state that Berwick now has a stronger conservation voice through the county's planning process (Berwick Advertiser, October 18).
He was responding to Marian Mead’s legitimate concerns about the poor record of various county activities in Berwick.
There is no evidence that the county’s planning process has improved at all in this respect under the Conservatives, either through planning application decisions or through their draft Local Plan.
Planning application decisions regularly ignore the conservation voice through Berwick Conservation Area’s Advisory Group, and the Northumberland County Council Draft Local Plan for the whole of Northumberland does not contain sufficient policy detail to ensure either the built or natural environment of Berwick is protected and enhanced.
There are currently no policy documents of any kind that are used by the county council to ensure conservation or environmental issues are given due weight. All the conservation policies in the still extant Berwick Local Plan 1999 were deleted in 2007.
To address the gaps in the county’s planning policy approach, the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, comprising local volunteers with relevant expertise (now the Neighbourhood Plan sub committee of the town council) has been working over the past three years to produce the necessary policy detail to make a real difference in deciding planning applications.
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The Draft Neighbourhood Plan for Berwick, once adopted, will hold the same legal weight in decision-making as the countywide Local Plan.
But first there will be more public consultation on both plans, followed by examinations in public and, in the case of the Neighbourhood Plan, a referendum of the local community.
Not until all this work is complete might there be an adequate policy framework against which to decide planning applications.
Neighbourhood Plan sub committee member