DEVELOPERS bidding to build social housing in a tiny hamlet last night streamlined their plans, but still face determined opposition from villagers.
The Esh construction group and Two Castles Housing Association trimmed their proposals for 55 homes at New Ridley in Northumberland to just 25.
The original plans would have almost doubled the number of dwellings in the 60-house country hamlet adjoining Stocksfield in the Tyne Valley.
But even last night’s move – revealed just hours before a 78-name protest petition was lodged – did not change the stance of villagers.
Petition organiser Dr Paul Vickers said: “I cannot see this new proposal meeting with approval from the village any more than the first one.
“It is still on Green Belt land, and it is still a sizeable development for a village as small as this.
“The petition still shows the fact that there is opposition, and the petition still stands.”
Geoff Woodcock, managing director of Esh Developments, said: “Following the consultation which we held within the local community recently, we have taken on board all of the comments and decided to reduce the proposed scheme from 55 to 25 homes.
“This is a substantial change and we hope that it will meet with approval.”
Rob Brittain, property services director at Two Castles, added: “We value and carefully consider all the feedback we have received from local residents in relation to this development and have adapted plans going forward, including proposing a smaller scheme than originally planned.”
Despite the late shift in policy, the petition was still presented to Northumberland County Council’s West Area Committee at its monthly meeting last night.
The final planning application from Two Castles has still to be formally submitted to the authority.
Protesters say the hamlet – which has no shops or bus service and only one pub – could not sustain extra housing.
A 3.7-acre site in the heart of New Ridley was originally earmarked for the mix of three-bed houses with two-bed terraces and bungalows.
Dr Vickers added: “We simply feel the village growth should be gradual and supported by investment in infrastructure. Those of us living in rural East Tynedale are attracted by the green spaces and rural way of life. These virtues must be protected.”
Local county councillor Peter Jackson, who opposes the plans, said: “If we are not careful, we will wake up in years to come and find our precious green spaces have been picked off by developers, leaving our rural way of life unrecognisable.
“It is important to provide homes for growing communities, but this must be done gradually and spread out fairly.
“There are plenty of brownfield sites that can be developed to provide more housing in Tynedale.”
Mr Brittain said: “Two Castles Housing Association is working in partnership with Esh Property Services on this site and we are committed to delivering high-quality, affordable housing in rural areas to benefit local communities.
“There is a real need for quality, affordable housing in Stocksfield and the surrounding area.”