Apartment block scheme thrown out by councillors

The former Greystoke Surgery site in Kings Avenue.
The former Greystoke Surgery site in Kings Avenue.

A bid to replace a Victorian house in Morpeth with a three-storey block of flats was thrown out this week, against planners’ advice.

Countylife Homes had applied to demolish the former Greystoke Surgery building, on Kings Avenue, and build a development of six apartments with underground parking.

The proposals showed a basement parking area, with access from De Merley Road, three flats on the ground floor, another two on the first floor and a penthouse apartment on the ‘floating’ third floor, constructed of mainly glazed walls with a flat roof.

The scheme had sparked 23 letters of objection and was opposed by Morpeth Town Council, but it was still recommended for approval at Tuesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s planning and rights of way committee.

However, a majority of councillors decided to go against the recommendation, voting eight to three, with one abstention, to refuse it.

Coun Andrew Tebbutt moved the refusal on the grounds of the application being contrary to the design policy in the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan, over-massing and visual impact.

Coun Rupert Gibson said: “It does seem to me that Morpeth has decided that this is a redundant building.

“I think it would be easy for everyone to get together and make a plan that everyone can agree on.”

Earlier in the meeting, Peter Allan, who has lived in that area of the town – which he described as one of the most ‘historic and untouched parts of Morpeth’ – for 25 years, spoke against the plans, adding that all of the buildings ‘have a distinct character’.

He continued: “According to objectors, it looks more like a commercial office building or, as one said, a sewage-pumping station.

“The nearby Howard Castle development had many supporters, but this has more than 20 objectors.”

Bob Robertson, vice-chairman of Morpeth Town Council’s planning and transport committee, also spoke at the meeting, reiterating the body’s numerous concerns.

He added: “It’s been presented as being sensitively designed, but it could not look more out of place.”

But Robert Wood, on behalf of Countylife Homes, said: “There are no listed buildings involved and this is not in the conservation area.

“The current building is Victorian, but has been altered with a number of poor, 20th-century extensions.”

“It’s deliberately contemporary,” he added.

“Simply because it’s contemporary does not make it wrong for the site.”