Appeal ruling gets rid of affordable housing

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

A contribution for affordable housing, as part of a scheme to convert a former Morpeth surgery into a block of flats, will no longer be required.

Countylife Homes was originally obliged to make a payment towards off-site affordable homes when it was granted permission for its conversion of the Greystoke Surgery, in Kings Avenue, into five apartments.

However, at last Tuesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s planning committee, members reluctantly but unanimously agreed that the scheme should go ahead without any contribution.

Principal planning officer Judith Murphy explained that a recent appeal decision had made it clear that local authorities could not request affordable homes or a contribution towards them if the development is for 10 properties or less and has a maximum combined floor-space of no more than 1,000 sq m. This essentially gives legal effect to the policy which was announced late in 2014 and was criticised for its potential impact in rural areas.

Coun Heather Cairns said: “I have great concerns; 10 units in a city is nothing. Ten units in our rural areas is quite a lot. I find it very disturbing because we will not have any affordable housing in the county.”

The amended apartment scheme for the former Greystoke Surgery building was unanimously approved in March this year. The proposals had been refused by the committee, against the advice of planning officers, at the December 2015 meeting, but Countylife Homes opted to submit an updated application rather than an appeal.