Councillors blast housing plans

Glen Sanderson and Philip Ashmore by the field at Stobhill which is subject to housing application. GM030161
Glen Sanderson and Philip Ashmore by the field at Stobhill which is subject to housing application. GM030161

A major housing development at Stobhill would be ‘just wrong’, councillors have said.

Three members of Northumberland County Council have added their voices to the chorus of public objection to plans by Barratt David Wilson Homes and Tees Valley Housing to build 396 properties beside the A196 and A192.

The councillors spoke out at a public inquiry at Morpeth Town Hall last week.

Coun Andrew Tebbutt, for Morpeth Kirkhill, said: “I don’t think this site is at all sustainable.”

He told Planning Inspector Pete Drew that much had been made of the absence of a Local Plan directing development elsewhere, but said one would have been in place had work by the former Castle Morpeth Council not been stopped by the Government.

“It is ironic that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will make the final decision on this because it was his department that stopped the Plan being brought forward,” he said.

“It was stopped because of local government re-organisation. We were told the new county council had to have a new Plan. We had to go back to square one.”

However, Coun Tebbutt dismissed the notion of a ‘planning vacuum’, saying all development strategies have continued to focus around housing being built north of Telford Bridge.

He said the bridge is already the second busiest junction in Northumberland, carrying 23,000 vehicles each day, and that development south of Morpeth would exacerbate congestion.

Coun Tebbutt also rejected claims of a lack of housing land supply as a “red herring”, pointing to completed, approved or proposed developments at The Kylins, Loansdean, Northgate, Fairmoor, St George’s Hospital and St Mary’s Hospital in Stannington.

And he highlighted a lack of school and nursery places and children’s facilities.

Coun Glen Sanderson, whose Longhorsley division includes Hepscott, spoke of traffic concerns and said residents had raised valid objections.

“For me, the strongest point that has been made is that Hepscott is a village separate from Morpeth,” he said.

“It has a clear boundary of greenfield and if this development were permitted it would no longer be a distinct village, it would become part of Morpeth.

“This proposal is inappropriate and in the wrong place, It is just wrong.”

Stobhill member Ian Lindley said the scheme has been well designed and includes a good percentage of affordable housing, but it is fiercely opposed.

“In the seven years I have been a councillor for Castle Morpeth and then the unitary authority, I have never come across one issue where there is no divergence of opinion. In this case, there isn’t a single person who has approached me saying this would be a good development,” he said.

However, Coun Lindley warned that he is not optimistic that the plans will be turned down.