What is CRAG?

The Caring for Rothbury Action Group is an emerging group of people who want to be more active in steering the development of Rothbury and surrounding area.

Set up in the spring of 2016, the group aims to contribute positively to improving the unique area of Rothbury.

It will examine all new planning applications for the area and assess public opinion regarding the need, suitability and impact of such development

As a major destination for visitors, CRAG will seek to preserve the rural feel and aesthetics of the area, as well as to examine and raise concerns of road safety, pollution (including light pollution), environmental issues and so on.

CRAG will also oppose all speculative development where there has been no explicit need identified.

Chair: Jan Deckers
Vice Chair: Martin Ayres
Treasurer: Jo Coulter
Secretary: Val Suckling

Caring for Rothbury Action Group

Last updated 2nd May, 2017

Important update

CRAG invited all candidates for the imminent County Council election of the Rothbury Division to submit their vision (in no more than 500 words) on development in and around Rothbury by the end of April.

* Only one of our electoral candidates submitted their vision, as follows:

I, David McKechnie, as Green Party candidate for election in the Rothbury Division, would campaign for:

  • Aceptance and agreement that any further housebuilding in the Rothbury Division before 2031, should be in accordance with the Core Strategy Plan of Northumberland County Council, where this has not already been exceeded. Where the Plan has been exceeded, no further housing should be built.
  • in that, more genuinely affordable housing and social housing should be built, to satisfy the requirements of local people.
  • End to the practice of building just less than the number which would require the builder to provide affordable housing.
  • A refusal to allow the builder to pay a minimal ‘fine’, or to plead a loss of profitability, to avoid building affordable housing.
  • All new buildings, housing, industrial or commercial, should be durable, energy efficient, and, particularly for commercial and industrial buildings, adaptable for more than one specific purpose.
  • Strengthening and protecting local decision making, and empowering local communities to be genuinely involved in the development of local planning policy. Giving local communities a stronger voice in local housing policy.
  • Breaking the stranglehold that a small number of large developers have over housing provision, and especially questioning the link between Northumberland Estates and Northumberland County Council.
  • Better involvement amongst councillors and the county planning department and planning committee, with more weight given to local knowledge.
  • Better control of ARCH, with complete transparency and accountability to the whole council, and to the public.

* While we did not receive any vision from any other candidate by the above deadline, in his election prospectus Councillor Steven Bridgett has confirmed that he wishes “to work to get the first new council housing estate built in Rothbury in nearly forty years” and has “already had discussions with the County Council, landowners, and developers to begin the process of obtaining the necessary land” regarding a large-scale development of affordable homes.

In an earlier statement published on-line, he said: “What I am proposing is that … instead of incorporating the 20 affordable homes as part of the extension to Whitton View that is already approved, I am suggesting Northumberland Estates give the County Council further land adjoining the proposed 'affordable' housing site at The Middle School in lieu of those homes as well.”

It is important for residents of the Rothbury Division to know exactly what this entails, as the prospectus is very vague on a number of key points:

  • Where will this significant development be located?
  • Who are the landowners concerned?
  • Who are the developers he has had discussions with?
  • How large will the development be?
  • Has the Parish Council been party of these discussions?

After a telephone conversation with Councillor Bridgett, we can confirm that the development being considered is in conjunction with Northumberland Estates (i.e. the Duke of Northumberland). It covers four fields close to the Middle School and will be a very large development. Talks with Northumberland Estates and the County Council are at an advanced stage.

This is a surprising about-turn by Councillor Bridgett who, only a year ago at the Planning Committee meeting regarding the 40 homes behind Lordenshaw Drive and 17 on Silverton Lane, claimed that Rothbury could not absorb these 57 houses in a sustainable way.

* We urge residents of the Rothbury Division to consider very carefully where they place their vote on Thursday.

Other key updates

1. CRAG’s involvement with the Neighbourhood Development Plan:

Neighbourhood Planning came into force in 2011, through the Localism Bill. It gives us a unique opportunity to produce our own Neighbourhood Development Plan. Rothbury Parish Council, Thropton Parish Council, Cartington Parish Council and Whitton and Tosson Parish Council have joined together to produce this Plan. CRAG was co-opted by the Mid Coquetdale Neighbourhood Development Plan Steering Group.

Since the community consultation in 2016 and the Consultation Open Day in Thropton and Rothbury on 11 March 2017 we have been working hard to draft a Neighbourhood Plan for the area. The Steering Group has listened to what community members have said, and have come up with a Vision for the Neighbourhood Area and 7 objectives that we think reflect what the community want, and which we think we can achieve through planning policies and community projects in the Neighbourhood Plan. With each objective, specific policy areas have been identified.

2. CRAG’s objection to an application in Bellingham:

We submitted an objection to the building of 37 residential dwellings at land off Percy Terrace (Pennine Way), Bellingham (ref: 16/04680/OUT) and encourage others to do the same. Objections can be submitted either electronically or by writing to: The Central Registry Team, Development Management, Northumberland County Council, Planning Development, County Hall, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE61 2EF, (remembering to disclose your full name and address).

3. Updates related to applications in Rothbury:

- CRAG issues three formal objections against Northumberland Estates’ plan to build 11 holiday lodges (ref. 16/04231/FUL) on land south of Rothbury Golf Club.

- The Northumberland Estates application for 9 dwellings along Hillside Road West (Ref: 16/01871/OUT) was approved at the NCC Planning Committee meeting on November 22nd (following a site visit the day before). Although this was not the desired outcome, conditions were set by members of the committee that may significantly reduce the likelihood of building going ahead. How these conditions are actually set out (and how effective a deterrent they turn out to be) remains to be seen. In any event, we would like to convey our sincere thanks to everyone who campaigned to raise awareness about the proposed development; to those who opposed the application and especially to the four families on Hillside West as well as to Josephine Ellis from Blue Kayak Planning (who they contracted) for all their extra efforts in opposing this application.

- With respect to the decision made by NCC for the development of 57 houses on land south of Lordenshaw Drive and Silverton Lane (Ref: 14/03266/FUL), CRAG submitted two formal complaints to the Ombudsman against NCC’s Planning Committee, neither of which was upheld.

CRAG represents people who value the views of our community in relation to planning issues.

To do this on a local level, CRAG have joined the Steering Committee of the Mid Coquetdale Neighbourhood Development Plan. We need to protect basic things like the representation of views relating to the use of the land within and around Rothbury, our rate of expansion and the changes any such expansion could bring about. This includes the impact on the livelihoods of local people, including farmers who might be displaced, local shops and small businesses, as well as our general quality of life. We are also concerned that Northumberland County Council may have a significant conflict of interests with Northumberland Estates through running a joint business (Prudhoe Estates LLP).

On a wider level, we realise that great inequalities in power regarding land development and housing access exist right across Northumberland and the country as a whole.

CRAG organised its first meeting in the Jubilee Hall on 9 April 2016 and a public demonstration along Silverton Lane and the Lonnen on 14 May. The significance of this location is that it is on the settlement boundary for Rothbury under the planning rules of the Alnwick District Council. Recent approvals granted by Northumberland County Council allowed expansion of the village outside this boundary. Protesters held up copies of the Village Design Statement for Rothbury, which contains a map with this boundary as well as the statement that ‘the present village envelope should be maintained’ (p. 6, par. 2). Press coverage of the event can be found in the Northumberland Gazette, 15 May 2016.

We will continue to campaign for the interests of those who are against the imposition of inappropriate and unwanted speculative developments. To this end, we will also contact Anne-Marie Trevelyan again (following her promise to present our petition in Parliament in September 2016), pay close attention to the work of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (who added their objection to a recent application), and make efforts to link up with others within our own community as well as other affected communities around Northumberland.
We hope you will continue to offer your support, regardless of how close a proposed development may be to your own home. CRAG has made links with the Take Pride in Prudhoe Group and the Isleworth Park Road Allotments Association, and is calling out to members of other communities that may not have a fair say in how their communities develop. We believe that by coming together we can overcome the sense of powerlessness and exposure to unwanted impositions that many may have become accustomed to.

As ever, we welcome any feedback and indeed any suggestions you think may support our campaigns.

If you would like to add your weight and strength to our fast-growing pool of people power, please show your support by getting in touch, either by emailing: rothburycrag@outlook.com or by speaking to any of us: Jan Deckers (chair), Martin Ayres (vice-chair), Jo Coulter (treasurer), Val Suckling (secretary)

Please keep an eye open for updates on this website.

Silverton Lane

Saturday, 14th May 2016

Around 130 people turn up to demonstrate, and the local and national media took an interest.

The photos below show the line-up along the town boundary line, and some of the plackards (click the photos to see full-size).


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