Town’s green lung under threat, say objectors

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AN exhibition for proposed Morpeth retirement flats will take place next week – and objectors are urging everyone with an interest in the town to attend.

McCarthy and Stone will present its plans for an apartment block at the old Headmaster’s Lawn, off Cottingwood Lane, at King Edward VI School (KEVI) next Thursday.

The scheme would provide between 40 and 50 flats for people over the age of 60 in a two or three-storey block, with 25 parking spaces.

But local residents are already raising fierce opposition to the development, which they say would dominate the skyline, spoil the semi-rural setting and exacerbate road safety problems.

Now they are urging parents of KEVI pupils to view the plans for themselves, as well as people who are concerned about the potential loss of green space in the town.

Cottingwood Lane resident Paul Raven said: “Everybody in Morpeth should come to the exhibition because it is so important, especially for parents of kids who will be going to the school.

“There is a huge safety issue. Between 8am and 9am, and between 3.30pm and 4.30pm, you can’t drive up the road because of the school pupils.

“The kids are used to walking in the middle of the street, they are not used to construction traffic or ambulances being there, and if people in the flats have an accident an ambulance wouldn’t get up the street. The clue is in the name, this is a lane, not a road. It is basically a one-way street.

“With the amount of parking there at the moment, it is bad enough, but you can imagine that when we start getting a lot of construction traffic it would be horrendous.

“When the place is open, there is going to be visitors, the residents themselves, ambulance services and staff. This lane is not built for that kind of traffic.”

Mr Raven said the site is totally unsuitable for such a development, especially as any residents would face a difficult walk home up a steep hill from the town centre, and other sites, such as Gas House Lane and Goosehill, would be more appropriate.

South Terrace resident Marilyn Tweddle, who taught at the school and was married to former Deputy Head Alec, said: “I have lived here since 1974 and my late husband was here from 1960.

“From my window, I look out at the lovely blue sky, a line of six or seven rowan trees and I can see far across to the edge of King Edward VI School. I see the open green field that was the Headmaster’s Lawn and it is just the most beautiful open space.

“At night you can see badgers and foxes. It feels like living in the country.

“If this development goes ahead I will be looking onto a faceless building that would block the sky, the trees and the greenery, as well as most of the light to my house. The fact that the land slopes up from my house will make it even worse.

“At my age, 66, you do think about the future and maybe getting a flat so we need developments for older people and I’m sure the people who lived there would be wonderful neighbours, but that isn’t the point.

“It is just the wrong site.

“This wonderful open space is a lung, you go there and breathe the lovely country air.

“If a huge development was there we wouldn’t have this wonderful green lung.”

Mrs Tweddle is also concerned about the drainage of the site and she said the potential increase in traffic is a major worry.

She said: “There are already major traffic problems there, but what appals me more than anything is the proposed entrance to this building. You will be coming out onto an absolutely blind corner.

“That corner is extremely dangerous. It would be the most appalling safety situation.”

She added: “I would certainly encourage people to go to the exhibition.

“There are a lot of old grammar school boys who loved the field.

“They are horrified when they come back and see the old school building is gone, if they see this monstrous building on the field they would be heartbroken.”

However, a spokesman for the developer said: “McCarthy and Stone’s strength lies in our experience of building superb homes tailored to the needs and aspirations of older residents, promoting independence and allowing older people to continue to lead healthy and active lives.

“Our plans aim to meet the needs of residents keen to remain in Morpeth.

“The proposal would offer an opportunity to introduce a sensitive form of development, which will be designed to complement the surrounding area.

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“McCarthy and Stone is keen to develop a scheme which positively contributes to the local community, both through the high quality, attractive design and the increase in local housing choice the development would bring.

“McCarthy and Stone is committed to engaging with the local community and is hosting an exhibition before the submission of a planning application. It will give residents and stakeholders the opportunity to view the proposed plans and allow local people to speak to the project team and provide their feedback.

“I would like to encourage residents to come along and let the team know their thoughts on the plans.”

The exhibition will take place in Drama Studio 3 at the school on Thursday, November 3, from 4.30pm to 8pm.

Anyone who is unable to attend can receive further information by calling freephone 0800 298 7040 or visiting www.consultation-online.co.uk/morpeth