Housing plan for police HQ gets go-ahead

Plans to develop housing at Northumbria Police headquarters have been given the go-ahead in principle.

An application was submitted by Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird for outline consent to build up to 263 homes at the Ponteland site, off North Road.

It followed a review of the force’s estate and a decision to retain the communications’ centre and command suite at the base, but relocate all other activities, meaning much of the site would be surplus to requirements.

As well as the facilities still in use by police, Grade II listed buildings on the land would be retained.

Northumberland County Council’s West Area Planning Committee was told last week that although the site is in the Green Belt, the building work would take place entirely on previously developed land.

Planning officers said that due to the lack of a five-year housing land supply, there must be a presumption in favour of sustainable development and the benefits of the scheme would outweigh any harm.

Seven letters of objection raised concerns about the Green Belt, scale of development, traffic impact and lack of infrastructure, while five letters expressed general support, but also highlighted some issues.

Ponteland Town Council agreed in principle with the development, but said improvements would be needed to avoid congestion and improve public transport, pedestrian and cycle links.

The planning committee voted to give authority to the head of development services to grant permission for the scheme, subject to planning obligations being met.

They include financial contributions of £150,000 for traffic management, £300,000 for public transport improvements and £240,000 for highway infrastructure.

In addition, 20 per cent of the development should be affordable housing, the public must have access to the site, and a nature conservation plan should be implemented.