Retirement flats will be ‘monstrous’ intrusion

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CONCERNS are growing over plans to build an apartment block next to a busy Morpeth school.

Residents in Cottingwood Lane have been approached by developers McCarthy and Stone about plans to build 40 to 50 retirement flats off the street, on land owned by King Edward VI School Foundation.

The company says the proposals are still at a very early stage, but they are expected to take the form of a two to three-storey apartment block, with private apartments for people over the age of 60.

There would also be a house manager, residents’ lounge, laundry, 24-hour careline, CCTV and communal gardens.

Initial discussions have involved individual meetings with local residents and a full consultation exercise will take place in the autumn.

However, concern is already mounting about the plans and a residents’ group is being formed to discuss them.

Fears have been raised about the height and scale of the development, the potential for overlooking and loss of privacy and increased traffic on the already congested street.

The developer says the block will be a similar height to the surrounding buildings.

Resident Franc Whittle said: “It is going to be monstrous.

“It is going to be really close to properties and the ground level for that building on the provisional plans is level with the eaves of our houses, within a couple of feet from them. It is going to be two-storey, and three-storey further back.

“There is a lady along the street who is going to find a two-storey gable wall out of her kitchen window. She will be able to see the third storey and given the roof section it will be more like four storey.

“The middle bit of the building will look directly into my back bedroom and it is going to completely devalue the property.

“I don’t quite understand how it will be allowed to overlook like that. I’m a 64-year-old man so it is not as important for me, but a young family doesn’t want to be getting looked over.

“How would you like a house built across the road from you where the residents can just look in?”

While the apartments would be available for anyone over 60, the developer says the average age of residents is expected to be around 78.

But Mr Whittle says many will still rely on cars, and with other developments already approved for the area, such as an athletics facility, traffic could be a major problem.

“This is going to be too far up for people to walk up and down to get to the shops, particularly if Morrisons moves, so they are going to be driving there and there are only parking places for half the people that live there, not to mention visitors,” he said.

“The planners have already let other developments take place in Cottingwood Lane, which is going to flood it with traffic.”

A spokesman for McCarthy and Stone said feedback from residents will be taken into account when its plans are being finalised and it is already making amendments following early discussions.

“The proposals are at a very early stage and we have held a number of meetings with neighbouring residents to discuss the principle of retirement accommodation for older people on the site,” he said.

“We had a good range of feedback from these meetings and as they are at an early stage we are looking at making amendments to the scheme following these comments.

“In particular, the heights of the proposals will be similar to the surrounding buildings and we will ensure there will be no overshadowing to adjacent properties.

“These meetings were at the very start of our consultation process. We would look to engage all local residents in a full public consultation process in September/October.

“The feedback we have received so far has been very useful and we look forward to further conversations with residents as the scheme progresses.”