Residents unite against flats plan

A GROUP of Morpeth residents has shown a united front against proposed retirement flats.

McCarthy and Stone recently unveiled plans for an apartment block at the old Headmaster’s Lawn off Cottingwood Lane on land belonging to King Edward VI School.

The announcement caused concern among local residents and dozens of them voiced their objections during a public exhibition at the school last Thursday as well as joining or supporting the Cottingwood Lane Residents Action Group.

They believe it will cause a range of problems and there are more appropriate sites available in town.

But the company says it is the right location and talks are under way to see what highways improvements can be made in the area, although it also insists it will take the comments on board.

George Brown is one of the School Close residents who live right next to the site.

“The lane is congested enough with all the residents and school pupils, so a development like this would only make things worse,” he said.

“With the extra traffic and the elderly people in buggies having to cross the road to reach the footpath, it’s an accident waiting to happen.”

His partner, Susan Patterson, added: “This is not what we signed up for when we moved here.

“If the development goes ahead, we will have no privacy, no light and no country – it’s totally unacceptable.”

Gordon Dixon, who lives in Cottingwood Lane, said: “The McCarthy and Stone officials didn’t seem to find any disadvantages with their proposal, but I believe their drawings did not really reflect the full impact of the building once it is constructed.

“When I asked them about the extra traffic congestion they said the majority of residents would not have a car, but what about the people who will visit them and the lorries making deliveries to the site?”

The scheme would provide 51 flats for people over the age of 60 in a two or three-storey block, with 25 parking spaces.

McCarthy and Stone say the proposed heights lower towards neighbouring properties and it would enhance existing planting to further soften views of the building from neighbouring properties.

However, King’s Avenue resident Lorna Beasley said: “It’s only a little lane which already has a lot of congestion and there are brownfield sites in Morpeth that McCarthy and Stone can use instead of this greenfield site.

“We see this as somebody making an enormous profit and not caring about how if affects other people.”

Her husband Paul added: “I was annoyed that the scale of the drawings made the building appear to be much smaller than it actually will be. Hopefully, the county council will take on board our comments and the strength of feeling against the proposal when it comes to the planning application.”

Steve Secker, Regional Managing Director for McCarthy and Stone, said: “It was encouraging to see over 70 neighbours and local residents at this next stage of the consultation process and our team listened carefully to the concerns and comments which were raised.

“This is a great site for a McCarthy and Stone development, being central, meeting an existing local need for this type of accommodation as well as being a low traffic generator.

“Much of the building is three storeys, however it is equivalent in height to the adjacent two-storey adult educational centre (formerly the Headmaster’s house) due to different building requirements of modern developments.

“We have worked hard with the county council’s highways officers to accommodate strict requirements for junction and pedestrian safety, including improvements to the Cottingwood Lane footpath and a new access point and pedestrian crossing point.

“Based on the comments we have received, our next steps will be to work up the designs so we can give people a better idea of what the building would look like.”

At the exhibition, there were some inquiries from elderly people in Morpeth and surrounding villages about the accommodation that would be available if the development was built.

The Trustees of the King Edward VI School Foundation, a registered charity, made the decision to sell the land after many months of deliberation and consideration with the full support of the school and its governors.

If the scheme goes ahead, the proceeds will enable the Foundation to increase the funds it has available to support the school and the students through a range of means such as purchasing special equipment, helping students to go on field trips, special courses and carry out overseas voluntary work and contributing to transport costs for sports teams’ away games.

But Dawson Place resident Peter Scaife said: “I’m disappointed that the KEVI Foundation made the decision to sell the land without taking into account the views of local residents.

“The traffic implications are absolutely ludicrous and if there was an accident it would be very difficult for an ambulance to get up the lane quickly.”

King Edward VI School Foundation Chairman Tim Nichol said: “The development of this site has been debated since the old school was demolished in the early 1970s.

“In anticipation that the school would move a new site in or near Morpeth the Trustees’ policy was not to sell off parcels of land. This was because the whole school site would more likely attract a higher price if it were to sold to a single developer.

Despite a number of plans, it is now clear that the school will not be moving to a new site in the medium term. In the light of this the Trustees had to consider how best to utilise the trust’s assets.

The land subject to the contract with McCarthy and Stone was regarded by the school as being surplus to requirements and could be sold without the school’s day to day operations being affected.

“I have had the opportunity to discuss the development with some residents and understand the issues that they have raised.

Selling this land was a legitimate and appropriate action by the Trustees in the interests of it beneficiaries. The school has an excellent reputation and the Foundation can provide greater support to it in the future if the sale goes ahead.

“The type of development proposed by McCarthy and Stone was considered to be suitable by the Trustees.”