People power wins battle to block homes

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VICTORIOUS residents have hailed the power of the people after winning the battle to block plans for 200 new homes.

An appeal by Bellway Homes to build the properties, along with a commercial element, in a field at South Loansdean has been dismissed by Planning Inspector Malcolm Rivett.

Northumberland County Council had decided to pull out of defending the appeal due to changes in national planning policy.

But the South Morpeth Coalition residents’ action group continued the fight at a hearing at the Town Hall last month.

And yesterday members learned their efforts had paid off.

Chairman David Holden said: “It makes you fell like the work was worth it. Hopefully all the local people will be delighted with this now.

“It is a victory for common sense and it shows that local people with sound arguments can have a real influence in decision making at the highest levels and they will be listened to.

“I think this shows that the county council’s decision not to defend the appeal was injudicious and misguided.”

Fellow member Joan Tebbutt said: “It’s fantastic news. I’m so excited I can’t speak, I can’t believe it.

“It just shows what a local community can do if people pull together.

“Somebody said to me the other day that the South Morpeth Coalition was like King Canute trying to turn back the tide and we shouldn’t have bothered. This proves them wrong.

“I thought that the Inspector was listening and this is just wonderful news.

“I wonder how this is going to make the county council feel? It really has to sit back and look at itself now.

“We did this all on our own as residents, completely and utterly on our own. We were learning by the day and spent hours and hours pouring over the documents. It’s all worth it now.”

The council’s North Area Planning Committee pulled out of the appeal after councillors were advised that the outdated Castle Morpeth District Local Plan, which was used as the basis for rejecting the initial Bellway application, was not consistent with the new National Planning Policy Framework.

However, Mr Rivett said the Framework makes it clear that plans should not be considered out of date simply because they were adopted prior to the publication of the document and that saved policies remain in place.

He said that the affordable housing element of the scheme, which would have included half the properties built, was given some weight, but its importance was reduced as it provided relatively few social rented homes and many people would not be able to afford the discounted market rates to buy a property in the area.

He also found that as there is a five year supply of housing in the area the Bellway scheme can not be justified as it would breach the long-standing settlement limit of Morpeth and cause significant harm from the loss of open countryside.

“Overall, I conclude that the harm the scheme would cause to the countryside significantly outweighs its benefits in terms of potentially increasing the overall supply of housing, over and above the five year requirement, in providing affordable accommodation, in providing improved access to and maintenance of areas of open space on and around the site, in creating jobs at the commercial unit and in providing additional income to the council in the form of New Homes Bonus and ongoing Council Tax receipts, “ he said.