Appeal decision delay is a cause of concern

A much-awaited decision on controversial Morpeth housing plans has been delayed.

And it could have a knock-on effect on the battle over a bid for another new estate across town.

The result of a planning inquiry into Bellway Homes North East’s appeal to build up to 200 houses at Loansdean had been expected to be announced by June 24.

But now residents have received notification that the decision will not be released before July 18.

Town and county councillor for the area Andrew Tebbut said: “When the inspector finished hearing the appeal, he made it clear that he wouldn’t be able to make any decision within the normal six to eight weeks and we should expect an answer by the end of June.

“Now we have received a bland email from the Planning Inspectorate to say that we won’t hear anything before July 18. We are saddened that we are going to have to wait so long.”

The news is a further blow to the South Morpeth Coalition (SMC) residents’ group, which has been fighting the housing plans for close to three years.

The applicant was initially refused planning consent for the site next to The Chip by Northumberland County Council in February 2012, and an appeal was dismissed in August that year.

But Bellway launched a High Court challenge and in May 2013 a new hearing was ordered. Meanwhile, the developer submitted another plan for 186 homes, which was turned down in September.

Both appeals were heard in Morpeth Town Hall in March.

The delay in announcing the outcome could have implications for an appeal by Barratt David Wilson Homes North East and Tees Valley Housing to build 396 houses at Stobhill.

Both sites are greenfield, outside the settlement boundary and to the south of Morpeth, which goes against emerging proposals in the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan for housing to be focused north of the town. Both have also generated concerns about flood risk to Hepscott.

The Stobhill applicants argue that there is a need for more housing in the area.

The inquiry is scheduled for July 22, just four days after the Loansdean ruling is due.

Coun Tebbutt, whose wife Joan is a member of both SMC and the Hepscott and Morpeth Together group, said: “If the inspector finds in favour of SMC, it puts an enormous amount of pressure on the Stobhill inquiry, and if he finds in favour of Bellway then it makes the Stobhill group stronger in that some of Barratt’s arguments no longer apply. It is a crucial decision all round.

“If the Bellway appeal is granted, it has major implications, if it fails, it has major implications and if there is no decision before the inquiry starts, it makes it much more complicated.”