Hartlepool Civic Society concerned that town is in ‘planning chaos’

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

A GROUP aimed at protecting the architectural inheritance of Hartlepool has raised major concerns the town is in “planning chaos”.

Hartlepool Civic Society believes its future is now in the hands of developers as a result of the Local Plan, a 15-year planning blueprint, being axed by Hartlepool Borough Council.

But Dave Stubbs, the council’s chief executive, said councillors felt the original Local Plan did not “resonate” with residents and said all planning applications for major housing developments will be considered on their individual merits, while work continues on the new plan.

It is expected to be adopted in 2016 but that, the Civic Society believe, has led to chaos.

The Society had taken part in the original consultation and felt the town was “on the ball” before the plans, which cost £1.5m and took five years, were axed.

A spokeswoman told the Mail: “Hartlepool Civic Society was shocked, to say the least, when, contrary to advice councillors decided to ‘throw out’ the Local Plan, which had taken so many years and cost so much money to produce.

“The worst fears of the Civic Society about what would happen with no Local Plan in place, is now coming true.

“The scoping opinions being sought for the south-west extension and the most recent at High Tunstall Farm, amount to 5,000 houses, all on Greenfield sites.

“This is over and above houses planned for Seaton Carew, the Steetley Site, Middle Warren, and those at Quarry Farm and High Tunstall.

“And this may not be the end of it.”

Hartlepool Civic Society say there “seems to have been little or no understanding by a majority of elected councillors” as to the implications of scrapping the plan.

In response, Mr Stubbs said: “Clearly, councillors felt the previous draft Local Plan did not resonate with the people of Hartlepool and they gave a commitment to work with residents and others to develop a new Local Plan which meets the needs and aspirations of all communities in Hartlepool.

“In particular councillors were concerned about the proposal to provide a gypsy and traveller site and wanted to look again to see whether there is the need and demand to provide a site at all.

“The other main reason for the withdrawal was to review future housing provision across the whole of the town.

“If Hartlepool is going to continue to prosper, develop and be an attractive location in which to live and work, there has to be a suitable mix of housing to meet all future needs.

“Until a new Local Plan is adopted - which I expect to be in 2016 - the council will follow the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework when determining planning applications.”

Society members also raised concerns the framework works on a presumption in favour of development adding: “In short, the future of Hartlepool is no longer in the hands of those elected to represent us, they have handed responsibility over to the developers.”

Mr Stubbs, who encouraged people to take part in the new consultation, said the council is “perfectly entitled” to refuse applications for housing if it can demonstrate any adverse impacts outweigh the benefits.