Councillors reluctantly agreed to approve a scheme for 14 executive homes in the hope it will help to support a wider tourism development.
William Kiely had applied to build the homes on land next to Burgham Park Golf and Leisure Club, near Felton.
The bid would not usually be permitted in an area of open countryside and green belt, but it was put forward as an enabling development to help fund the wider unfinished scheme of holiday lodges as well as a new clubhouse and golf academy, known as Northumbrian Hills.
Because of this, approval, which was granted at Tuesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee, is subject to the completion of a legal agreement to ensure that net proceeds from the sale of the land are invested into the wider development.
Following questions from members, the council’s solicitor confirmed that the agreement applied to whoever was the landowner, not just the first time it was sold, and that the money goes into a bank account, which has two signatories – the applicant and someone from the county council.
If the money is not used, for example, if the scheme went bust, after three years it goes to fund affordable homes in Northumberland.
Nicola Allen, speaking on behalf of residents of Burgham Park, described it as a ‘simple proposition from the applicant’; the golf club is failing and it’s not viable to redevelop, he can’t borrow money so would like the planning system to help out.
She said: “If a bank can’t lend on a commercial basis, you have to ask why the planning system should step in.
“It’s not a heritage asset, it’s a private members’ golf club and second homes.”
Simon Priestly, on behalf of applicant William Kiely, said that Northumbrian Hills would be a four-star destination resort, which would create around 40 jobs.
He also pointed out that work on phase one had started with the first eight holiday lodges having been completed.
Coun Gordon Castle said he would support the application with ‘some misgivings’, but pointed out that the golf resort may well fail otherwise.
Coun Trevor Thorne agreed, saying the committee was being ‘very generous’.