Protestors win battle to halt homes development

A MAJOR application to build 200 homes on a greenfield site has been rejected after hundreds of objections were made.

Proposals to build the mix of two to five-bedroom properties at South Loansdean in Morpeth received huge criticism from the community, councillors and members of the planning committee, despite officers recommending approval.

The scheme would be delivered in four phases, with the first including social housing.

More than 100 people filled the Northumberland Hall in Alnwick last Thursday, with the majority there to hear the Loansdean plans.

In total, 214 letters of objection to the scheme were submitted, raising concerns about the greenfield site when the town already has sufficient land for residential purposes, as well as the fact that it lies outside the settlement boundary. The scheme would put pressure on schools and health services, and it would be over-development, it was claimed.

Objector David Holden had a 468-signature petition from south Morpeth residents challenging the planning officers’ recommendations.

And Morpeth Town councillor David Parker said that development in this area was not in the Morpeth Local Plan.

“The town council supports development at the St George’s site.

“A new link road is in the offing and it will be located near to the town centre making it more suitable. Approving this application would not be appropriate,” he said.

Developers Bellway Homes said that 50 per cent of the 200 homes proposed would be affordable and that a new four-arm roundabout could help to ease traffic in the area.

But ward member Andrew Tebbutt said: “This is just not acceptable, the developer’s suggestion that it can change the travel habits is pure speculation.

“Will all these properties end up being affordable? The officers’ report seems to have had to look for a reason to justify this application and that is it.

“I feel that this is wrong for Morpeth and we are being asked to make a strategic decision that is contrary to current policy. It is unsustainable.”

There were cheers and rounds of applause from members of the public.

Sandra Thompson, speaking for the developers, said that no objections had been raised by statutory consultees and she added that the 50 per cent affordable homes would be delivered as the developers had already signed up with Isos Housing to provide them.

However, Northumberland County Council’s North Area Planning Committee was unconvinced.

Coun David Woodard said: “I have listened to what has been said and I think there are three grounds for refusal.

“Firstly, to approve this application would be prejudicial to the local development framework process, which would set a precedent in terms of delivering housing for Morpeth.

“This spring it is proposed to carry out a consultation and that is the appropriate way for the public to express their views.

“Secondly, the proposed development does not agree with safety policies in the Castle Morpeth District Local Plan by being outside the approved settlement boundary.

“The third reason is that the proposals involve unnecessary development of a greenfield site outside the settlement boundary of Morpeth when there are other sites available or likely to become available within the settlement boundary.

“Whatever commercial development is proposed on the site, it will only partially fulfil people’s needs so they will have to travel into Morpeth to shop and access services.”

Coun Gordon Castle added: “I think the very complex case outlined to us resolves into some very simple issues in terms of deciding whether there is an exceptional nature which will enable us to support it.

“It hangs on the supply of affordable housing, without that it wouldn’t be recommended for approval.

“I have been on the planning committee for 14 years and confidence in these kind of affordable figures has been marred over recent years. The housing market has not changed so I can’t have the degree of confidence that I need to have.

“This is an exceptional case that has been put to the committee and it would be of help if the community was behind it.

“I know members are in a difficult position, nevertheless I would feel much more comfortable in supporting this if it was clear that the people of Morpeth wanted it.”

However some were in favour of the plans.

Coun Trevor Thorne said: “For me the affordable housing does clinch it.

“As a planning authority I feel we have been very poor in delivering affordable housing.

“I think this is an opportunity we shouldn’t miss. I feel it would be good for the economy of Morpeth and I feel the questions about highways have been answered.”

Coun Brian Douglas agreed.

But the proposal was refused by six votes to two.

Bellway has said it intends to appeal the decision.