Housing plans opposed

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A NEW bid to build housing on the edge of Morpeth has met with fierce opposition from town councillors.

Last year Bellway was defeated over its plans to build 200 homes in a field near Loansdean after an appeal ruling in favour of objectors.

The developer is challenging the decision in the High Court, but it has also submitted a new application for the same site, which reduces the number of homes proposed to 186, with a greater proportion offered for ‘affordable rent’.

However, the changes have failed to convince Morpeth Town Council to give its backing to the project.

And members of its Planning and Transport Committee have outlined a number of objections.

Committee member David Parker said the scheme is premature when development plans are being drafted, there is already sufficient housing built or approved for the area, the Bellway development would be outside the defined settlement boundary and it would harm the open countryside.

“The application is premature in that it will prejudice the possibility of Morpeth residents determining where development should take place in the emerging Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan,” he said.

Coun Parker said neighbouring parish councils are also involved in drawing up a plan, and an Issue and Options document will be put out to the public in May, while work is continuing on a county Local Plan.

He added: “While there is a recommendation that Morpeth is identified as a growth point for housing development, it is felt that this should be planned in a sustainable and strategic manner rather than a piecemeal approach.

“Adopting a strategic approach will also ensure that future planning policy will not only relate to housing, but also to the provision of community facilities and employment opportunities.”

Coun Parker said there is no shortage of housing supply in the area and that Planning Inspector Malcolm Rivett found in his appeal ruling that even with a 20 per cent buffer, the target for 2012 to 2017 would be met.

He also pointed out the Inspector’s concern for the loss of open countryside, and said the completion of the Morpeth Northern Bypass in 2015 will make more brownfield sites available to the north of Morpeth.

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Coun Parker said: “The proposed development of a greenfield site would have an unacceptable impact when a number of brownfield sites will be available.

“The proposed development will be outside the settlement boundary for Morpeth, which is designed to preserve the rural character of the town. This view was supported by the inspector.

“The proposed development on the edge of the town is also remote from community facilities, including schools. Development should be more connected to the town to make it more sustainable.”

Fellow committee members were equally opposed to the Bellway plans.

Coun Ken Brown said: “I want to suggest a couple of points to strengthen the prematurity argument.

“The Issues and Options document will inform what is an emerging vision for the town over the next 15 to 20 years.

“Secondly, we will have in place a draft plan before the end of this year. All we are waiting for is the Core Strategy to catch up with that because we can’t go out to referendum until the Core Strategy is completed.”

Committee Chairman Graeme Trotter added: “The further along you are with the Neighbourhood Plan process the more that is taken into account.”

The committee moved the objections unanimously. They will be passed on to Northumberland County Council, which will determine the application.