Noise fears fail to derail store’s bid to open earlier

The Morrisons supermarket at Morpeth.
The Morrisons supermarket at Morpeth.

Further changes to the hours of operation at the Morrisons store in Morpeth have been approved, despite objections.

The supermarket on Dark Lane, as well as its decked parking areas, will now be open from 6am, instead of 8am, from Monday to Saturday.

There will be no changes to the Sunday hours and the store will continue to close at 10pm, apart from the four days prior to Christmas Eve, when the opening times will be 6pm until midnight, making permanent a temporary permission which lapsed in January.

This application, which was approved by 13 votes to one at Tuesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee, is the latest in a series of bids to change hours of operation at the site.

In 2014, an application to vary the hours of opening and staff parking was refused by the county council before being allowed on appeal.

This was followed by the year-long temporary amendment from January 2016 and then, last April, proposals to change the delivery times were refused.

Morpeth Town Council and Morpeth Civic Society both objected to the scheme, citing the ‘loss of residential amenity in relation to noise and general disturbance’ and the extension ‘causing further unacceptable levels of disturbance’ to nearby residents respectively.

However, one member of the planning committee, Coun Jeff Gobin pointed out that 27 letters sent out to residents had only resulted in three objections.

Alison Byard, speaking on behalf of Morpeth Town Council, said that residents of Staithes Lane already have to put up with lorries arriving ahead of the 7am entry time and waiting with engines running and lights on.

She also pointed out that if the store opens at 6am then this would mean that staff could be arriving well before that.

Following a question from Coun Andrew Tebbutt, David Latham, from the council’s public-protection team, explained that, under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), issues of noise pollution would need to be significant to warrant an objection.

Coun Dougie Watkin asked if there had been any formal complaints about noise from the store and Mr Latham said that he was not aware of any.

Coun Tebbutt said: “I’m concerned about it because as I understand it, the undercroft will then open at 6am too and it gets hectic as soon as it opens.

“But if public protection can given us no support for those residents, I feel there’s no point in opposing it, because it will lose on appeal.”

However, Coun Richard Dodd said: “It’s a busy town centre and if anyone goes to Morpeth at night, they will find the biggest noise is the boy racers that go round and round the town.”

Coun Scott Dickinson welcomed the potential boost for employees.