Changes delay new housing project plan

CHANGES to housing plans which form part of a proposed major Ponteland development have delayed the project.

Outline permission was granted by the former Castle Morpeth Council in March 2009 for 150 new homes on part of the Northumbria Police headquarters site.

The scheme was drawn up to help fund a £23million modernisation of the complex, but approval was on the condition that half the properties would be classed as affordable and the force contributing almost £700,000 towards road, public transport and traffic improvements.

But despite lengthy negotiations between police and county council bosses about this obligation, they have been unable to secure an agreement.

And now the Northumbria Police Authority (NPA) wants to reduce the number of affordable homes down to 30 to 20 per cent of the total.

Therefore the planning application, which also includes a new 12,000 sq ft office block and an access road, needs to be considered again — this time by the county council’s West Area Planning Committee.

A report to the committee from planning officers includes a statement from the applicants, which says: “The money raised from the sale of the residential part of the site will be used to fund the new police headquarters building.

“The 50 per cent affordable housing provision renders this unviable and leaves a funding shortfall.”

The revised bid was due to be determined at its meeting last night, but the NPA asked for it to be withdrawn so it could make some small changes and adjust the wording of the application.

Officers say the police application can be supported if it means investment in police services and job retention can be successfully delivered.

If the scheme goes ahead, their main aim for the affordable units is to get as many two bed bungalows for rent for elderly people as possible because this type of accommodation was highlighted as a key issue in the needs survey for the former Castle Morpeth area.

There were more than 150 objectors to the original application, including Ponteland Town Council.

Mayor Peter Cowey said: “Ponteland does need more affordable housing, but we objected to this application because of its scale.

“I don’t think any buses go in that direction so many of the people moving to the homes would use cars and this will increase congestion on an already busy North Road.

“There will also be more pressure on our schools and services.”

If approval of the revamp is eventually given, the police authority will need to comply with other elements of the 2009 legal agreement.

These include contributions of £300,000 to public transport improvements, £150,000 towards traffic management measures and £240,000 for road improvements.

NPA property advisor Peter Udall said: “The Ponteland planning application is being deferred to allow us to resolve a minor technical issue and make adjustments to the wording of the application.

“We anticipate that the revised application will appear at next month’s planning committee.”