A controversial proposal to build new apartments in Ponteland has been approved by a planning inspector.
It is anticipated that preparations for the five-storey block containing 18 flats on the western part of a site at Mill House off West Road will begin next month, with construction fully underway by the summer.
Linden Homes, Galliford Try’s house-building division, submitted an appeal after the bid was turned down by the county council’s west area planning committee 12 months ago.
Committee members said that the scale, design and massing of the proposed building was inappropriate and the application had not sufficiently addressed parking and highway safety issues.
More than 50 objections were lodged by local residents and organisations. Their concerns included drainage and flooding issues, impact on wildlife, noise and light pollution.
The site was previously developed with offices for Galliford Try and to the south of it is the River Pont. Ponteland Park is located to the south east, with the existing scout hut adjoining the application site boundary.
In the appeal decision, planning inspector Mark Caine said the differences in levels between the site and West Road are such that the proposal would appear at a similar height to the two-storey residential properties across the road.
He added: ‘I do not consider that the proposal’s contemporary design, appearance, size, scale and massing would be so conspicuous as to result in a dominant, incongruous, alien feature that would be out of keeping with Ponteland or its park setting.
‘In regards to the proximity of the proposal to the river, an ecological survey has been submitted and Natural England, the Environment Agency and the council’s ecologist have not raised any objections, subject to mitigation measures (one of the conditions requires Linden Homes to draw up a scheme to manage a buffer zone alongside the watercourse which meets the approval of the authority).’
The inspector also said there is no firm evidence to conclude that the application would not provide adequate off-street car parking – there will be 18 spaces for the residents of the apartments and four spaces for visitors – have a harmful effect on highway safety or exacerbate existing flooding problems in the area.
Among those against the bid was the Friends of Ponteland Park. Its chair, Margaret Stainsby, said: “We’re disappointed with this decision because we have quite a few concerns.
“The area of park near the site includes a bend in the river and hanging branches, so it is a good spot for wildlife. Kingfishers, heron and a few otters have been spotted here among other animals.
“We will keep an eye on the development as it is being built because we don’t want the works to damage the wildlife. We also want to know if residents will have access to the buffer zone, or will it be cordoned off?”
The executive apartments, called Mill Rise, will include three top floor penthouses.
Linden Homes’ head of sales, Kate Brooks, said: “We are delighted that this project has received planning permission.
“Well aware of the sensitivities of developing in Ponteland, we took advice from planners and listened to and acted on comments received from members of the public in designing the scheme.
“The proposals were altered several times to create something which fits well into the local surroundings, but also provides unique homes, which will interest buyers.
“This carefully considered scheme will be delivered sensitively and with as little impact on the local area as possible.
“We are conscious that the site is next to a park and a scout hut and the needs of local people – particularly those who use these facilities – must be taken into account.”