THE battle over plans to build a new Morpeth apartment block was taken to a public hearing this week.
Around 100 people packed into Morpeth Town Hall on Tuesday as developer McCarthy and Stone presented its case for a 51-apartment sheltered housing scheme off Cottingwood Lane.
The proposal, which would see a two to four storey block built on the Old Headmaster’s Lawn near King Edward VI School, was turned down by Northumberland’s North Area Committee.
But the applicant told Planning Inspector Anthony Lyman that there was no reason for doing so, no other suitable sites are available in the area and the development would bring benefits.
Representative Giles Cannock said: “Residential development is acceptable, flatted development is acceptable, sheltered accommodation is acceptable on this site. We also know from the school trust that it wants to get best use of its assets and so it has to develop this site.
“Local residents say this is a greenfield site. This is a development site, whether people like it or not.”
He said the scheme was subject to pre-application discussions with Northumberland County Council and it accords with national planning policy, while parking provision at the site would be adequate, with a maximum of two visitor cars having to park in Cottingwood Lane according to the council’s peak figures.
He also rejected concerns about a lack of adequate parking provision, road safety issues and the scale and mass of the development, and said prematurity arguments around the development of a Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan carry little weight as there is no document in place.
However, Principal Planning Office Mark Ketley said it is a greenfield plot and at least one other brownfield site should have been considered first.
He said there is a risk to road and pedestrian safety due to the difficult access, and the scale and mass of the development would be unacceptable to the character of the area, while it would dominate neighbouring residents, especially as their homes are set at a lower level.
Resident Les Cassie, of the Cottingwood Lane Action Group, added: “The judgment of everybody who lives here is that this is an entirely inappropriate scheme.
“None of us dispute that some accommodation of this type in Morpeth could well be beneficial. Our dispute is doing it on this site.”