PLANS to build 73 homes on greenbelt land outside Morpeth have been given the green light to enable progress on a large-scale commercial development.
The new houses, on land at St Mary’s Hospital in Stannington, will provide the gap funding to allow the business village by Rivergreen Developments, once billed as creating 250 jobs, to go ahead.
Planning officer Tony Carter said that while the scheme was contrary to national, regional and local policies, the exceptional circumstances were that employment and mixed housing were being provided.
He also said that the land directly around the hospital should be inset and not included within the greenbelt.
But the plans, covering land at Burnholme and adjacent to Royston House, were subject to objections from Stannington Parish Council, along with four residents.
At last Thursday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s North Area Planning Committee, Parish Chairman Eunice Ridley said there was no sign of serious plans for the commercial development and it would be folly to approve more housing. Coun Ridley also highlighted potential road issues in the surrounding area.
However, Rivergreen Developments Managing Director Peter Candler said that the office development was now fully designed and that it is the company’s intention to start building this year.
Helen Brown, a Glororum resident, was concerned about the roads around the site, saying that they were already ‘cracked, ruptured and potholed’.
Members wanted to ensure that the commercial project did not fall by the wayside.
The new houses will be subject to a 106 agreement which means that the office development must be completed before all of the homes are occupied, although the exact details are to be finalised.
Coun Dougie Watkin said: “If the developer goes into liquidation, are we going to pull down the 80 houses? No. I would like to be convinced that we do have the ability to know that that happens, end of story.”
Coun Gordon Castle said: “We need to have the most stringent safeguards that we get what we want and what the community expects.
“I don’t dismiss the concerns of local residents. If I lived there, I would have concerns too.”
Coun Trevor Thorne said: “I do have confidence that our officers will draw up a very tight 106 agreement to secure the commercial element in this development.”