Joy as flats bid appeal is rejected

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PEOPLE power has won the day as a controversial bid for retirement apartments in Morpeth has been rejected on appeal.

Developer McCarthy and Stone hoped the decision by the county council’s north area planning committee to refuse its bid for 51 flats off Cottingwood Lane would be overturned by the Planning Inspectorate.

But Inspector Anthony Lyman ruled that the advantages of providing extra accommodation for the elderly were outweighed by the harmful impact on the area and highways concerns.

At the hearing in Morpeth Town Hall in April, the Cottingwood Lane Residents’ Action Group argued that there would be risks to pedestrian safety at the access point to the development.

They said the development would cause an unnecessary loss of greenfield land when better brownfield areas are available and the proposal had an inadequate parking provision, so it would have a major detrimental effect on the already very congested Cottingwood Lane.

Other fears included an increased risk of surface water flooding to surrounding properties and the works would severely damage the protected mature trees which screen the site.

In his report, Mr Lyman said: “The development would help to satisfy the growing, overall demand for retirement homes for the elderly and would benefit the King Edward VI Foundation and the school through the value of the land.

“However, the detrimental impacts that the development would have on the character and appearance of the area, surrounding properties and on highway safety would significantly outweigh those benefits. Therefore, the appeal is dismissed.”

On highway safety specifically, he was not persuaded that the accessibility of the development for the elderly residents, nor the proposed highway access, would secure a safe environment for users of the road.

“The (national planning) framework requires, amongst other things, development to create safe and secure layouts which minimise conflicts between traffic and cyclists or pedestrians,” he added.

“It has not been demonstrated satisfactorily that the proposed development, due to the deficiencies in the design of the access and the lack of safe and secure routes for pedestrians and wheelchair users, would accord with this requirement.”

Action Group member Jon Laws was delighted with the result and praised all those who objected as well as the experts who argued against the proposal in particular areas at the hearing.

He said: “The inspector may have agreed with McCarthy and Stone about the legal arguments, but he took our side when it came to the subjective points.

“This outcome shows that if companies only pay lip service to the consultation process, they are likely to come unstuck.”

Steve Secker, Regional Managing Director (Northern) for McCarthy & Stone, said: “We’re obviously disappointed with the decision that has been made and are currently reviewing our position.”