Council hits out at housing decision

The field at Stobhill proposed for housing development.
The field at Stobhill proposed for housing development.

Town councillors have slammed a decision to allow hundreds of homes to be built at Stobhill.

Morpeth Town Council says it is extremely disappointed after Communities Secretary Eric Pickles granted permission on appeal for Barratt David Wilson Homes to build 396 homes on land between Stobhill and Hepscott.

Stobhill member Alison Byard said: I’m very disappointed and saddened by the decision.

“My main concern is the traffic on the A192 going down to town, particularly in the mornings and evenings in the winter.

“The planning inquiry took place in July and the inspector didn’t see how bad it can get. We were all dismayed with the results the county council came up with when it said the journey takes 220 seconds from Stobhill to the town. We pointed out that it was rubbish, but the inspector mustn’t have taken that on board.

“We are now going to end up with another 400 cars on that road, at least.”

She added: “We tried our hardest, but this decision is worrying for the future of Morpeth. The only thing we can hope for is that the Core Strategy is done as soon as possible to protect the green surroundings of Morpeth.”

Coun David Parker, who represented the town council at the inquiry, said: “It is a very regrettable decision. Local people in Stobhill will be up in arms about this, as will people across the town.

“I think a lot of people are going to be quite cut up about it. It is the wrong decision not just for the Stobhill area, but for the whole town.

“The people of this town have been trying hard over the last two years to do some really quite creative strategic planning for the future of Morpeth for the next 30 or 40 years and this is a kick in the teeth.”

Coun Parker added that allowing more development in the south of Morpeth will further imbalance the town.

“This site is not a sustainable location in my view because the houses will be a considerable distance away from the nearest shops. The main shopping area, the doctors, the dentists and all other services are north of the river,” he said.

“I only hope that the county council will ensure that it itself doesn’t add to the problems by trying to build houses on its own land.”

Town Planning Committee Chairman Joan Tebbutt has hit out at the “woefully inexplicable delay” by the county council in producing a Local Plan for the area to control where development takes place.

But she said it is vitally important that people continue to engage with the plan-setting process.

“I’m desperately keen for people in Morpeth to respond to the Core Strategy and Neighbourhood Plan consultation,” she said.

“The quicker we get a good plan in place that developers and planners have to adhere to, the better. This appeal decision gives it all the more importance.”

Consultation on the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan first draft will begin next month to identify areas for housing and employment land and protect the heritage and environment.