Decision on new holiday park deferred due to error

The site near Widdrington, which includes the lake that forms part of the proposals. Picture from Google
The site near Widdrington, which includes the lake that forms part of the proposals. Picture from Google

A decision was deferred on a major tourist development in Northumberland amid concerns the community had not had a fair chance to have its say.

As reported last week, Northumberland County Council planning officers had recommended that a large holiday park on the former Steadsburn opencast mine site, near Widdrington, be approved at Tuesday’s meeting of the strategic planning committee.

But on Monday, it was revealed that the application had been withdrawn from the agenda.

At the meeting, Liz Sinnamon, from the council’s planning department, explained that it had come to light after the agenda had been drawn up that the application had been listed in the wrong parish.

While the correct parish council – Widdrington Village Parish Council – had been consulted throughout the process, the application remained in the wrong parish on the authority’s online planning portal.

Ms Sinnamon said it was ‘important that we give the local community a chance to have their say’, but that this should only delay the decision by a month with ‘every effort’ to bring it back to the December meeting.

Last week, there were no objections lodged, but four residents have now submitted their concerns.

As well as issues with the proposals themselves, the flaws in the consultation process have been highlighted too.

Dave Dallard, from Widdrington, said: “Local residents have NOT been informed at all about this application.

“In the past, such as with the windfarm proposals or the Highthorn opencast proposal, all of which are further from the village, we have been informed directly in letters, as is generally considered best practice in many local authorities. I have only found out about this by happenstance.

“There appear to be very deliberate attempts to avoid consulting the local residents, which is contrary to the spirit, if not the actual letter, of the relevant planning legislation.

“Surely this renders the ‘process’ thus far invalid or illegal and it must be started again with proper local consultation in order to address the concerns of those most affected?”

He added that ‘there are numerous grounds for objection’, referring to the impact on protected wildlife, questions around job creation and the limited local infrastructure.

Callaly Leisure Ltd submitted the hybrid application for what it is calling Chevington Castle Holiday Park, on land south of West Chevington Farm Cottages, at the end of last year.

It seeks full planning permission for the scheme’s first phase and outline approval for the second stage.

Phase one is for the creation of a holiday park with up to 275 static caravan pitches, 200 all-weather pitches for tourers/tents, a two-storey main building, a toilet/shower block, a workshop building, 475 parking spaces, outdoor play provision including a play area and lakeside beach, water-based leisure activities plus roads, footpaths and landscaping.

The main building would include a swimming pool, sauna, indoor play space, catering facilities, reception/office accommodation, beauty treatments floorspace, a laundry area and a small shop.

The phase two works would comprise a further 475 bases for holiday homes and a nine-hole golf course with a lakeside café, all in a woodland setting.

The report to councillors explained that it is envisaged that the proposed development would generate 100 full-time and 30 part-time jobs, while the various leisure facilities would be open to non-residents too.

Planning officers had concluded that ‘significant benefits would arise’ from the scheme through ‘the creation of substantial employment both during the construction phase and within the proposed development once operational and the significant additional spending within the local economy that would arise from the proposals’.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service