Major plans for edge of town set to be refused

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Hundreds of people opposing a proposed large development to the north of Morpeth have received some welcome news this week.

Officers at Northumberland County Council have recommended that Mitford Estate’s bid for up to 255 homes, a hotel, roadside services, a pub/restaurant and parkland on a greenfield site to the west of Lancaster Park should not receive planning permission.

The application will be determined by the authority’s Strategic Planning Committee at a meeting in County Hall on Tuesday (2pm start).

A total of 173 objections have been submitted, including letters from the Morpeth North Residents Action Group and the town council, and there are 63 letters in support.

Lancaster Park residents are concerned that they will be badly affected by exposure to excessive noise and the development would have an impact on visual amenity and landscape character.

Other points from those against the proposal include their belief that it would have a significant negative impact on the local environmental and many existing businesses in Morpeth and they claim that the homes are not needed given the number of large and medium residential schemes in Morpeth that have been approved over the last two years.

Those in support say the development would provide homes, some of which would be ‘affordable’, jobs and services, as well as community benefits.

The report by principal planning officer Vivienne Cartmell says: ‘The proposed scheme is located in an area defined as open countryside and this designation is intended to be carried forward through the emerging Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan.

‘Residential development in this location would conflict with the intention to protect areas of open countryside, thereby conflicting with local and national planning policy.

‘The employment/Trunk Road Service Area part of the scheme is welcomed and would be recommended for approval were this to be submitted in isolation as a stand-alone development proposal.

‘The housing element of the scheme, however, cannot be supported.

‘There is a balance of competing issues in this case and it is considered that, on balance, the provision of housing on the scale proposed, beyond the existing established limits of the settlement of Morpeth, cannot be justified.

‘In officer opinion, the housing element of the scheme tips the balance towards a recommendation of refusal.

‘The Northumberland Local Plan Pre-Submission Draft (October 2015) does not anticipate residential development of the type and scale proposed at the site until at least 2031, and even then a ‘need’ for its development would have to be evidenced’.

If the plans were to be approved, the hotel would have 60 beds and the service area would include a petrol filling station, an amenity building with retail and hot food units and support facilities.

At the same meeting, the committee will be asked by officers to approve an alteration to an outline scheme for up to 77 residential dwellings on land north east of Netherton Park near Stannington.

The initial proposal was approved, subject to a Section 106 legal agreement being reached in relation to an off-site affordable housing financial contribution, by the now defunct north area planning committee earlier this year.

The contribution from the applicant – Netherton Park Trustees – would now be targeted towards buying and leasing children’s homes (residential properties) instead of contributing toward off-site affordable housing.

The report by senior planning officer Joe Nugent includes the following: ‘The revision in this instance is not considered to be a material change to the provision of affordable housing and remains consistent with the policy guidance set out in the Local Plan’.