Go-ahead for homes at former hospital

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A bid to convert the derelict Morpeth Cottage Hospital into housing has been given the green light despite a series of objections.

The application, for 39 new dwellings on the site to the south of the town centre off the A197, was unanimously approved by Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee on Tuesday afternoon.

Helen McArdle Care bought the former hospital and surrounding land from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust last autumn.

The company, which runs the Foxton Court care home next to the site, was looking to build various types of accommodation for up to 80 pensioners.

But it then decided to sell the 1.37-hectare site to Galliford Try, subject to contract and the granting of planning permission.

The 39 properties consists of four-bedroom semi-detached townhouses, four and five-bedroom detached homes and a number of apartments.

Coun Joan Tebbutt, of Morpeth Town Council, spoke against the proposals, emphasising the impact on the landscape corridor.

She pointed out that while the hospital was set back from the road, this scheme includes an apartment block right at the front of the site.

James Hall, on behalf of the applicant, highlighted that this was a brownfield site, a good mix of housing was being provided and that 15 per cent of the homes would be affordable.

Coun Andrew Tebbutt asked the council’s highways officer about the access arrangements, saying that it is already a very difficult junction, particularly when trying to get out from the hospital site.

The officer explained that the change in its impact on the road network from its former use as a hospital to its proposed residential use would be mininal and would actually result in a slight decrease.

“The density of development proposed equates to one vehicle movement per dwelling per hour – 39, which is not a lot.”

Coun Tebbutt pointed out that as a hospital, the majority of traffic would be going in during rush hour, as opposed to people leaving their homes, but the highways officer said that this had been considered in the highways report.

He was also concerned about traffic during the construction phase, but was assured that a condition attached to the permission would tackle this.

Following a motion to approve the bid, Coun Richard Dodd said: “A number of years ago when they built the first development here, there was uproar, but I don’t really think any of the issues they talked about have come to light.

“It was always understood then that eventually the whole lot would go into some development and it’s taken until now.”

Coun Tebbutt said: “I’m delighted that we are going to get movement on the site, but I’m bitterly disappointed that the developer’s going to put that block of flats on the front of the site. It could have been a storey lower.

“What I would also like to make sure in terms of conditions is that they enhance the wildlife corridors. This area of Morpeth is suffering enormously.”

He added that if the developers work together with the likes of Morpeth Town Council then ‘we could satisfy most of the residents’.