Concerns at 50 homes for small settlement

The site of the proposed homes at Medburn is to the north-east (behind) Greenrigg and the plans include the demolition of the existing bungalow.
The site of the proposed homes at Medburn is to the north-east (behind) Greenrigg and the plans include the demolition of the existing bungalow.

Plans for 50 executive houses in a hamlet of around 100 homes have been given the go-ahead despite a series of concerns.

At a recent meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee, members approved an application for four, five and six-bedroom properties on land north-east of Green Rigg, in Medburn, near Ponteland.

The scheme, by Miller Homes, is essentially a combination of two approved outline planning permissions, one for 18 homes and another for 15.

Both of these approvals were granted subject to off-site affordable housing contributions of £350,000 and £267,000 respectively.

In its response, Ponteland Town Council stated: ‘We are very disappointed and perturbed that the housing numbers proposed in the previous outline permissions have been greatly increased; by 50 per cent.’

It added: ‘Medburn is a small settlement without any services, only a limited bus service and poor paths for cyclists and pedestrians.

‘The construction of 50 more dwellings in addition to the recently-approved construction of at least 23 new dwellings would have an overwhelming and adverse impact on this small settlement and the C345, which is a narrow country lane and the only access road.’

The council’s planning department previously had similar views about the sustainability of Medburn as a location for housing, but the authority lost two appeals against refused developments submitted in 2011 and 2012.

At the meeting, Coun Andrew Tebbutt, the only committee member to vote against the plans, asked about previous appeal decisions influencing this decision.

Mark Ketley, the senior development and delivery manager, replied that it was fair to say that the council had been ‘scarred’ by previous appeal decisions, but that the inspector’s view was that Medburn’s proximity to Ponteland made it sustainable.

The first appeal decision said: ‘Although the small settlement has no facilities of its own, it is not a remote rural location.

‘While it appears that residents generally have private cars and the site is outside convenient walking distance of the shopping, social, educational and employment facilities at Ponteland and Darras Hall, the site appears to be within cycling distance of such facilities and there is a limited regular bus service and school transport.

‘Therefore, the site offers scope for accessing facilities and services by means other than private cars.’

Coun Trevor Thorne ‘reluctantly’ moved approval, saying: “I take Coun Jones’ point that it’s a small settlement in a rural location.

“I wish we had something to limit the size of developments in settlements like this, but the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) doesn’t seem to allow it.”

Earlier in the meeting, Coun Veronica Jones, ward member for Ponteland West, spoke against the proposals, highlighting the lack of facilities in what is ‘not even really a village’. “Medburn has just over 100 houses so that in itself shows this development is out of scale,” she said.

Coun Jones also highlighted the fact that the C345 through the settlement is ‘a fairly narrow country road’ and that the only bus service is supported by the county council.

However, Darren Blake, the project architect, said that this was an ‘opportunity to provide a very low density, bespoke executive housing development’. “We feel this provides a really strong scheme, very balanced and well-designed,” he added.