Housing plans ‘bad for town’

Planning Inquiry appeal site - site visit at Loansdean, Morpeth.
Planning Inquiry appeal site - site visit at Loansdean, Morpeth.

COUNCILLORS have urged a planning inspector to take the whole of Morpeth and a nearby village into account when deciding whether or not to approve up to 200 new homes.

Among those speaking at an appeals hearing at Morpeth Town Hall regarding Bellway Homes North East’s proposals for land south of The Chip at Loansdean was Coun Andrew Tebbutt, whose county council ward (Morpeth Kirkhill) covers the site.

He was the authority’s cabinet member for corporate resources between 2008 and May 2013.

Coun Tebbutt said: “I would argue that all the major planning decisions made in relation to Morpeth since 2000 show a consistency of supporting development north of the River Wansbeck, as first envisaged in the Castle Morpeth District Local Plan.

“This has been evidenced by the county council’s commitment to financing, along with central government, the Morpeth Northern Bypass.

“If you allow significant development to both the north and south of Morpeth, it can reasonably be argued that both would become unsustainable.

“I must stress the importance that local people place upon the existing settlement boundary in this part of Morpeth. Nothing in the intervening 21 months since the first inquiry has changed my mind, or that of residents, that this proposed development is any way justified.”

Coun David Parker, speaking on behalf of Morpeth Town Council, said the authority believes that the inspector (Philip Major) should reject the appeals.

He said: “To grant the appeals would be premature. The Localism Act gives residents in a neighbourhood plan area the right to determine where future housing should be located.

“The planning process must be given some time and long-term sustainability must be the objective, as the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) envisages.

“Thirdly, the proposed development is not acceptable because it is outside the settlement boundary.”

Hepscott Parish Chairman Philip Ashmore is concerned about the risk of flooding from the development.

“I’m here to speak for the forgotten village of Hepscott. We fear that the real consequence of this development will be flooding worsening in our village,” he said.

“Run-off from the development would flow into the Catchburn, which becomes the Hepscott Burn. It is the Hepscott Burn that has caused severe flooding in our village in two out of the last five years.

“It is part of the River Blyth catchment, not the Wansbeck. Whilst millions are being spent on Morpeth flood defences, they will have no effect on Hepscott.”

Coun Ashmore said the sewerage system already overflows in heavy rainfall, while sustainable drainage ponds have not prevented flooding.

“Bellway is proposing three ponds, but in 2011 the Environment Agency put five of these ponds in the vicinity of Hepscott. A year later we were flooded again,” he added.