MAYOR Stuart Drummond said Hartlepool needs to send out a message that it is “open for business” after councillors backed plans to build hundreds of new homes as part of a major 15-year planning blueprint.
The town is set to expand to the south-west after plans for a major residential neighbourhood were supported by cabinet members.
Senior councillors met yesterday to discuss Hartlepool Borough Council’s Core Strategy – which will shape the future of town and help meet demand to build about 5,000 new homes.
Land at Claxton, Brierton and west of Eaglesfield Road is earmarked for a total of 2,400 houses despite 135 objections, including strong objections from the Fens Residents’ Association.
The main objections centred on an “over-estimation” of housing demand over the next 15 years plus fears about the loss of greenfield land, as well as an increase in traffic and flooding concerns.
Robert Smith, vice chair of the association, said: “They are still missing the main point that there is going to be a tremendous oversupply of private homes.
“Houses are not selling and when they do, they go to landlords who then rent them out.”
Labour councillors Peter Jackson, Jonathan Brash, Ged Hall and Robbie Payne as well as independent councillor Hilary Thompson backed plans for the south west extension.
Only Labour councillor Pamela Hargreaves was against the proposals and said she was only in favour of developing on land at Wynyard.
Mayor Drummond said: “If this town is to compete then we need to be brave and visionary and send out a message that we are open for business.
“It is inevitable that we would be encroaching on green space, but we have looked at the pros and cons of each site.
“There will be further objections I am sure, but this does send out a very strong message as to how we see Hartlepool developing.”
He added that the nearby village of Greatham would be protected by a large green wedge.
Coun Payne added that traffic issues could be ironed out before the proposed development gets underway.
Coun Jackson said: “We don’t like to go into the green belt, but the town is expanding and we need the plans to do that.”
Cabinet members also unanimously backed proposals not to build houses on land at PD Ports and to instead focus on helping to bring off-shore wind and renewable energy industry to town.
The strategy also reserves a site for a potential new nuclear power station and contains measures to extend and improve the large green open spaces.
More than 1,200 responses were received by the council during its last phase of public consultation.
Planning officers will now produce a final version of the strategy, which will go back before the committee in January.
There will then be a final six-week consultation before it is submitted to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles.
Mr Pickles will then appoint a planning inspector who will hold a public examination of the strategy next year before it is allowed to be adopted by the council next Autumn.
The cost of the public examination stage – which covers the inspectors fees, venue and advertising costs – could be as much as £70,000.
Officers say it is a statutory requirement and they will try and minimise the costs.