ANGRY residents have accused Town Hall bosses of “jumping the gun” over plans for a luxury housing development on a former rifle range.
People living close to the now disused range in Whitburn have expressed their alarm at the plans to build 42 homes on the site.
They are unhappy that the application site not only covers the former Ministry of Defence buildings in Mill Lane - but also encroaches onto greenbelt areas of the ranges themselves.
And they say the bid, from Sunderland-based Bett Homes, is being “rushed through” over the summer, without enough time for a full public consultation.
Many locals say they only received letters from South Tyneside Council asking for their thoughts on the matter in the middle of August - with the closing date for observations Tuesday, September 3.
Now members of the public are being urged to have their say at a meeting in Whitburn’s Barnes Institute next Wednesday from 6.30pm.
Jon Warren, 43, of Augusta Terrace, Whitburn, is helping to co-ordinate the campaign.
The associate research assistant at Durham University said: “If you take a look at the plans they spill over onto greenbelt land.
“Our view is that this is the ‘thin end of the wedge’ and that if this goes ahead they will encroach further onto the green belt, little by little.
“Why is this being pushed ahead at such speed? We want a proper consultation. The community needs to have its say in what happens to the land, not just the local authority and planners.”
Mr Warren accepts that the site “can’t just be left as it is but campaigners are suggesting something instead that could benefit the village and the local economy, such as a coastal heritage and outward bound centre which could be used by local schools and tourists as a base to explore the coast and the ranges.
Another Augusta Terrace resident, former Mayoress of South Tyneside Pat Robinson, also expressed her concerns over potential for traffic problems.
She said: “The traffic situation is terrible as it is, this would just make it much worse. And why the sudden rush to push this through?”
A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “The council has received a planning application for new housing on the former Whitburn Rifle Range site. There is currently a period of consultation where people are able to provide their thoughts on the proposed housing application.
“The council has written to residents giving them the legally required 21 days to respond and ward member Councillor Tracey Dixon has also been on-hand to talk with residents.
“The application will be going to the committee in due course with every concern raised being taken into consideration.”
* Members of the public with concerns at the plans are urged to attend next week’s meeting.
Anyone wanting to support the campaign can email Jon Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org or Deb Aiken at email@example.com.
Alternatively, go to the Facebook page “Save Whitburn Range”.