Firm told to find flats alternative

PLANS for retirement flats in a narrow Morpeth street should be thrown out because there are better sites elsewhere, it has been claimed.

Developers McCarthy and Stone had applied to build 51 flats in a block of two to four storeys at the Old Headmaster’s Lawn, off Cottingwood Lane.

The plans were initially rejected by Northumberland County Council’s North Area Planning Committee, but an appeal was submitted.

Around 100 residents attended the hearing on Tuesday, which was told that more suitable sites for such a scheme are available.

Brownfield sites next to the Telford Bridge and Low Stanners were highlighted and the council’s Principal Planning Officer Mark Ketley said the former Davison’s Garage site should be explored in more detail, as he was not satisfied with the company’s response that it is unviable.

The Cottingwood Lane Residents’ Action Group suggested two sites opposite each other in Gas House Lane that could be used together.

Group member Les Cassie said: “We don’t dispute that a development of this type will be needed in Morpeth in the coming years, but we don’t believe that a valuable green space in Morpeth should be destroyed when there are a number of better sites elsewhere in the town.”

McCarthy and Stone representative Giles Cannock argued that the development was close enough to the town centre and, under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), there is no requirement for the firm to look into alternative sites, which he said was supported by the Secretary of State.

“I would suggest these factors are a knockout blow to this reason for refusal,” he added.

Mr Ketley said the NPPF encourages the re-use of previously-developed land so it was reasonable to ask developers to examine potential alternative sites.

Other issues included the risk of prejudice to the development of a Neighbourhood Plan, road safety and the impact on the character and appearance of the area, as well as on surrounding properties.