Old idea holds the answer to today’s housing problem

It’s an old idea dating back to the late 19th century, but the owners of Dissington Estate believe Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City concept is the right answer to today’s dearth of suitable housing in Ponteland.

However, the new 2,000-home garden village being proposed for a self-contained site centred around Limestone Lane just north of the town will not be just another Darras Hall, they have pledged.

Instead it will be a new mixed use community comprising a wide range of housing types, from apartments above retail units to supported housing for the elderly to large executive dwellings. Almost a third will meet the criterion for affordable housing – double the mandatory requirement.

There will be a primary school, cricket and rugby pitches, retail units, a medical facility, parkland, allotments and walking and cycle routes. The village will be served by a modern transport service and a new relief road bypassing the centre of Ponteland.

Having purchased the 2,537-acre estate from the Church Commissioners at agricultural land value in 2007, the owners of Dissington Estate say it can create a unique, high quality scheme whilst offering £90m in benefits to the area including infrastructure improvements and further offsite contributions including funds for secondary education, flood alleviation and town centre enhancements.

Local amenities will be managed by a community trust led by village residents.

The determination to involve the local community in the shaping of the new village saw around 30 Ponteland residents and representatives of local organisations attend workshops held in September where four potential sites were explored.

The favoured site is centred around Limestone Lane and incorporates a substantial landscaped parkland area around the entire site. The proposals are likely to be progressed through an outline planning application due in December.

The workshops were led by the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community, which has signed a contract with Lugano Dissington Estate Ltd to lead on design and community engagement for the lifetime of the project.

PFBC has significant experience of designing new towns based on the garden village concept, including Poundbury – an urban extension to Dorchester in Dorset – another at Newquay in Cornwall, and a 4,900-home village on the site of a former oil refinery in Coed Darcy, Wales.

Senior Director Ben Bolgar led a well received evening presentation following the three days of workshops to an audience of more than 90 people at the office in Prestwick Business Park which Dissington Estate has rented to enable members of the public to drop in and find out about the garden village plans. Further consultation ‘open days’ will be held at the venue and will be publicised over the coming weeks.

Northumberland County Council is supporting the garden village scheme in principle, subject to planning approval. It submitted an Expression of Interest in July to the Government in response to its report ‘Locally Led Garden Villages, Town and Cities’, seeking proposals from local authorities to create new sustainable and locally-led garden villages.

More than 50 schemes were submitted and the Department for Communities and Local Government is expected to announce which will be the first to be taken forward in the Autumn Statement in November.

Those put forward for the first tranche could benefit from financial support from the Homes and Communities Agency towards infrastructure improvements and speedier planning approval.

Richard Robson, Chairman of Lugano Property Group, is hopeful the Dissington scheme will gain Government support and planning approval and work can start in site in 2018.

He said: “This isn’t about development in Ponteland or Darras Hall. It’s about creating a new village in the nearby countryside, a new, balanced community with a high quality design people will value. ”

But Dissington Estate still faces potential opposition from local residents opposed to green belt development. Community leaders including representatives of Ponteland Town Council, Ponteland Community Partnership and Ponteland Civic Society all declined the invitation to take part in the Prince’s Foundation Enquiry by Design workshops, saying they could not support the proposal ‘in any way’.

Mr Robson added: “We will seek to engage with the Town Council, local county councillors and other local organisations as well as the wider general public throughout the planning process.”

A sketch shows the potential layout of the new village that resulted from the Prince’s Foundation event.

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