Development beside A1 could bring 180 jobs

The development site next to the A1 to the north-west of Morpeth. Picture from Google
The development site next to the A1 to the north-west of Morpeth. Picture from Google

The detailed plans for the first phase of a major – and controversial – development next to the A1 at Morpeth have been lodged and could bring around 180 jobs.

The reserved matters application for the non-residential elements of Mitford Estate’s outline scheme on land west of Lancaster Park has been submitted to Northumberland County Council.

Euro Garages Ltd is seeking planning permission for a services area, hotel and ‘innovation centre’, consisting of a number of business units.

The principle of this development, fiercely opposed by many Morpeth residents and supporters of the neighbourhood plan, has already been agreed and the latest application is seeking approval of the details.

Mitford Estate’s amended outline bid for a greenfield site to the north and west of Lancaster Park was approved by the county council’s strategic planning committee in September 2016 to cries of ‘shame’ from objectors who had packed the council chamber at County Hall.

Previous proposals, which were refused in November 2015, had been amended to reduce the number of homes to 150, while the employment offer was increased following the county council’s decision to allocate the site as designated employment land in its major modifications to the then core strategy – which has now been withdrawn.

This was due to a site designated as employment land at Fairmoor not being available until 2020 due to an option held by a housing developer.

Despite contravening the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan, the planners’ view was that ‘the economic benefits that the proposals would generate far outweigh the development plan policies on which the proposals would be contrary’.

The new application puts some flesh on the bone as to what the first phase seeks to deliver.

It would consist of a petrol station featuring a convenience store and a Food to Go sandwich shop concession, two drive-thru restaurants, a drive-thru coffee shop, a 40-bedroom hotel and the 2,100 sq m Innovation Centre – seven two-storey office units.

Some of the proposals differ from what was set out in the outline approval, but the application explains that the applicant ‘has sought to use this as a basis to form a development proposal which is deliverable, and sits within the parameters of the current outline planning permission’.

It goes on to say that the development of a Euro Garages site can typically bring a minimum of 50 full and part-time job opportunities to the local community, while the Innovation Centre could support up to 129 new jobs and the hotel provide up to eight (both full-time equivalent).

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service