ALMOST 500 people have signed a petition demanding protection for green belt land in Hexham.
The petition, set up by Hexham county councillor Derek Kennedy, will be presented to county planners by residents and form part of the development framework in 2013.
Fears have grown that housing developers are looking at land in and around the Tyne Valley. One development application for 36 affordable houses has been lodged for Corbridge Road in the town.
And the focus has been sharpened by Housing Minister Nick Boles’ suggestion that an extra 3% of green belt land in the UK should be set aside.
That would mean 1,500 square miles of countryside being built up, taking the national ratio from 9% to 12%.
However, research carried out by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which is backing the Hexham petition, suggests there is enough brownfield land in the country for 1.5m new homes.
Coun Kennedy said: “We want to get Hexham green belt’s integrity secured to ward off any sizeable developments. I’ve been the councillor for 10 years and we’ve had many rumours over the years of developers sniffing around, though nothing has materialised in the west of Hexham.
“The green areas are loved by local people and it keeps Hexham as a reasonable-sized town in its idyllic location. There is no real call for a mass expansion.
“We have lots of brownfield sites that developers can consider within the town and that is what we want to encourage.”
To date, 491 people have signed the Protect Hexham’s green belt petition.
The county council’s development framework is out for public consultation this month.
Hexham Civic Society, which has criticised the proposed development on Corbridge Road green land, has also given its backing to the petition.
Coun Kennedy said the Housing Minister’s call for a mass building campaign worries him and “sends the wrong message to developers”.
But strategy plans for Northumberland could add to the quantity of green belt in the county.
County Council Executive member Tom Brechany said: “I have had assurances from council officers that the Core Strategy at Issues and Options stage actually proposes an extension of the existing green belt around Northumberland.”