Lack of reasons to refuse homes

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A housing development which will triple the size of a hamlet to the south of Morpeth was reluctantly given the go-ahead last week.

At last Thursday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s north area planning committee, members gave the green light to proposals for 35 homes on the site of the Clifton Caravan Centre.

Planning officers had recommended the scheme for approval as despite being in the green belt and open countryside, the site is brownfield land and the is not currently able to demonstrate a deliverable five year supply of housing land for the area.

The site falls half in Stannington Parish Council and half in Hepscott Parish Council, both of whom objected to the scheme alongside Morpeth Town Council and Morpeth Civic Society.

Coun David Cowans, from Hepscott Parish Council, said: “It will spoil the surrounding countryside and the delightful little hamlet.”

The councillors on the committee spent around an hour questioning various officers, trying to bottom out some of the issues raised by the objectors.

Some were also concerned about the seemingly small contribution to off-site affordable housing, which will be a guaranteed £200,000, rising to a potential £700,000, dependent on the cost of dealing with ‘abnormalities’ on the site, which was formerly a colliery.

Eventually, Coun Heather Cairns moved approval, saying there were no grounds on which the committee could refuse the scheme, bearing in mind that the conditions are fairly onerous.

Coun Gordon Castle seconded the motion, adding: “I can understand it’s not wanted by the parishes, but we are obligated – we must provide planning reasons to go against officer advice.”

But Coun Gavin Jones said: “I actually think there’s a planning reason that could be used. Brownfield development in the green belt is only permitted if it has less of an impact; I would say that two-storey houses have more of an impact.”

Coun Andrew Tebbutt said: “I agree with Coun Castle, but I’m very, very concerned about highways safety – people ignore the 30mph limit. With a very, very heavy heart, I will support the application.”

The scheme was approved by six votes to three.