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Village revamp backed; But ambitious plan must win over minister.

Byline: Dave Black

A HOUSING development which locals say will regenerate a struggling former pit community in Northumberland was given the green light by councillors last night.

The Banks Group said its scheme to build 323 new homes in the seaside community of Cambois will help reverse decades of decline and give the area a brighter future.

The multi-million-pound development - which also includes new shopping and medical facilities - is focused on 35 acres of land, including the former Vald Birn iron foundry which closed in 2006 with the loss of 157 jobs.

Last night Banks's application, which was first submitted in 2008, was given unanimous backing by members of the county council's south east area planning committee.

They said they were minded to approve it, but a final decision will be made after the scheme has been referred to the Secretary of State as a departure from the local plan.

The revised proposals were submitted by Banks early last year after previous, more ambitious, plans for the land were scaled down.

They have been welcomed by local residents, who say new investment and housing is vital in a community hit badly by dwindling facilities and services.

Last night's meeting was told that a 144-name petition has been received in support of the scheme, which is also backed by East Bedlington Parish Council.

Justin Hancock, a senior development planner with Banks, told the committee that door-to-door surveys indicated the scheme was backed by 78% of people in Cambois.

"We bought the Vald Birn site in 2006 and it has been a long haul to get where we are now. However, it is not as long as people in Cambois have been waiting for the regeneration of their village."

John Charlton, who runs the village pub in Cambois, said locals felt let down in terms of lack of facilities, the loss of housing, a poor bus service and the absence of a shop or medical facility.

He said the development would help ensure the survival of the village. "Cambois is a blank sheet of paper at the moment, but we can make it a fantastic place to live in. We have got to make this scheme happen," he added.

County council area development manager Jenny Adamson said housing on the Vald Birn site was in breach of policies in the Wansbeck Local Plan, which designated the area as a zone of economic opportunity.

Most of the site was also outside the settlement limits. For these reasons the application would have to be given final approval by the Government.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 16, 2012
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