Decision day for housing scheme

A NEW housing estate on a site to the north of Morpeth is set to be given the green light today.

As part of its re-development plans for Northgate Hospital in Fairmoor, the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust has submitted an outline bid to the county council for 250 homes on surplus land.

There are objections from a couple in nearby West View, as well as Hebron Parish Council and Morpeth Town Council, saying there are inadequate transport links or other amenities for the number of dwellings proposed and there would be a negative impact on the town’s infrastructure and services.

But members of the Northumberland authority’s North Area Planning Committee have been recommended to approve the bid at a meeting in Alnwick this evening.

The trust is also seeking full planning permission for the replacement of the low-security male forensic unit and outline permission for the replacement of the Severe Autism Unit.

The existing buildings are no longer functionally suitable and the organisation said in its planning statement that funding for the new hospital buildings rests upon the development of the residential element of the proposal.

A report by planning officer Vivienne Robinson says: “The care provision at Northgate has a profile of national significance and this application for a mixed development including the new hospital development will ensure retention and investment and the continued success of Northgate Hospital, which will bring many benefits to the local community and the economy.

“The health sector accounts for 15.2 per cent of employment in Northumberland and is the second largest contributor to the employment within the former Castle Morpeth district. The number of staff based at Northgate Hospital is approximately 800 people.

“It is considered that subject to conditions and an appropriate Section 106 agreement, a departure from development plan policy is justified in this instance as the overall benefits deriving from this application outweigh the harm in this instance.”

The Section 106 agreement would mean that 20 per cent of the properties would have to be affordable for local people in housing need.

West View residents Allan and April Atkinson raised some concerns in their letter to the committee.

This includes the worry that there would be a great strain on the town’s schools and the availability of parking if this and housing developments in other parts of Morpeth are all approved.

“We can fully understand the reasons why the hospital trust wants to sell off its land, but we cannot accept that this will have any benefit to Morpeth other than to increase problems, and therefore costs, for an already financially-stretched authority,” they said.

The conditional permission is subject to the comments of the council’s Highways Department and other bodies such as the Environment Agency.

A detailed application would need to be made and agreed by the committee before building work could start on the homes.

There were no objections to the replacement of the hospital buildings and they are also recommended for approval.