Big scheme for edge of town back on the table

David Bawn

David Bawn

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A group of Morpeth residents is preparing for another campaign after controversial plans for a large development were resubmitted.

Mitford Estate’s bid for up to 255 homes, a hotel, roadside services, a pub/restaurant and parkland on a greenfield site to the west of Lancaster Park was refused by Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee at a meeting in November.

But as well as submitting an appeal against the decision, it has put forward a similar application which it hopes will address the concerns of the committee and planning officers.

The main difference is that the number of proposed homes in the revised scheme has been reduced to 195.

The Morpeth North Residents Action Group (MNRAG) was formed in response to the first bid and dozens of those who opposed it have already lodged an objection to the new plans.

Local county councillor David Bawn said: “It is very disappointing that this application has been resubmitted and none of the major concerns set out in the original refusal have been addressed.

“Apart from a slight reduction in the number of requested housing units, there has been no material change to the application – it was inappropriate then and it is inappropriate now.”

Although planning officers welcomed the employment/trunk road service area part of the scheme when considering the initial plans, the proposal for 255 homes in an area open countryside tipped the balance towards a recommendation of refusal.

The revised outline submission does not include a sewage treatment plant, as the facilities would be connected to the main sewer via the northern sewer line being progressed by Northumbrian Water.

More grazing land would be provided because of the reduced developable area.

Speaking on behalf of Mitford Estate, Bruce Shepherd said that the line of the development had been changed to address the concerns raised by nearby residents about noise.

He added: “After considering the reasons for refusal from the planning committee, we have put forward a revised application with a smaller number of homes.

“By moving the site further from the road, we’ve integrated it better with the social (affordable) housing and we’re sticking with 30 per cent of the housing total.

“The scheme is actually in the Mitford Parish Council area and it would provide 185 permanent jobs and 40 temporary jobs for the benefit of both people in the parish and the town of Morpeth.

“I don’t think the committee fully took into account the other aspects of the scheme, such as the creation of a country park.

“We would also provide land for allotments, new trees, hedges and ponds and a bus service to link with the town centre.

“We feel this is a very balanced and well thought out scheme that is sympathetic to the area and we hope it addresses the concerns of the committee and planning officers.”

The other issues raised by Lancaster Park residents include the impact of the scheme on visual amenity and landscape character.

A spokesman for MNRAG said: “The application is almost exactly the same as the previous one and none of the very significant objections from a large number of people have been addressed at all.

“The much trumpeted jobs boost for people in Morpeth are not real since they will be drawn from elsewhere in the locality and the effect on town centre commerce will be very negative.”

The plans can be viewed at www.northumberland.gov.uk – the application reference is 16/00078/OUT.