Committee responds to Darras Hall housing issue

A committee which turned down an application by a couple to adapt their home in aid of their disabled daughter has now commented on why it made the decision.

There has been correspondence between the parties and both say they are willing to have a face-to-face meeting in a bid to come to a resolution, although no agreement has been reached about who will be present.

Neil and Donna Scott submitted a bid to convert the Ponteland property they bought earlier this year specifically to cater for the needs of their six-year-old daughter Amelia, who suffers from the rare condition Jacobsen syndrome.

The plans were approved by the county council, but were knocked back by the Darras Hall Estate Committee.

The committee has revealed that an approval to extend the property in 2013 has yet to be fully implemented and it has consulted an architect in order to come up with some ‘suitable alternatives’ that it hopes will be acceptable to the family.

Following the refusal, the Scotts spoke of their disappointment at the decision. They believe the works would not have a negative impact as the house would stay within its original footprint.

An online petition calling for the committee to reverse its verdict has now been signed by more than 8,000 people.

A Darras Hall Estate Committee spokesman said its usual policy is to make no comment upon private applications in public, but since the owners of the property decided to bring the matter into the public domain, it felt that it had no obligation to maintain usual practice.

The application was considered at a meeting on September 28 and it was found to be in breach of the estate’s byelaws.

He added: “The property has been previously extended over the years and prior to this recent purchase, the Estate Committee and Northumberland County Council approved an application in 2013.

“This would allow the property to be substantially extended yet further so as to provide a five-bedroom house measuring in excess of 475 square metres. The new owners have already started to build in accordance with these approved plans.

“Shortly after buying the property, the new owners submitted a further application. This showed the house being altered in a different way to the original application, which had already received the committee’s approval.

“Following a request by the owners, a meeting was held to find a way forward after the new application was not approved. The meeting closed without a successful conclusion.

“Subsequently, the Estate Committee has discussed the application with a local architect who is familiar with the Darras Hall Estate byelaws.

“The architect has developed some suitable alternatives, which will provide the accommodation that the owners require and the committee has tried to organise a meeting to progress this.

“The Estate Committee hopes this offer will be accepted in the spirit it is intended and we can all work towards an amicable solution.”

Mrs Scott said that their solicitor wrote to the Estate Committee in response to its latest position and it replied that it would like to have a meeting, but only between the family, its representatives and the architect.

She added: “We want our solicitor to be present at such a meeting because we don’t want to be pushed into a corner.

“Hopefully, things can be sorted as soon as possible as we are anxious to get started on the amendments we need to make.

“People from as far afield as Australia and the USA have signed the petition and we’ve had backing, including re-tweets, from quite a few celebrities.”