Plans for a large employment park, which could create 650 jobs, on the former Alcan smelter site were given the green light this week.
The outline application by the Harworth Group, for the 121,000 sq m Lynefield Park, which would provide a ‘flexible mix of employment floorspace’, was unanimously approved at Tuesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee.
The term employment park is being used to cover a variety of possible uses on the site, from warehousing and storage to industrial.
Planning officer Geoff Horsman told the meeting that the county is ‘potentially looking at hundreds of new jobs’ on a site that ‘has been in employment use certainly since the early 1970s’.
Members later heard, from the applicant’s agent, that the estimated jobs which would be created on the site is 650 full-time equivalent, on top of work during the 15-year construction period.
“Harworth sees this as a flagship scheme for the area,” he added.
Coun Trevor Thorne said: “This is very much a good news story following the closure of Alcan.”
Referring to the fact that planning is about not just housing, but job creation, he added: “This will go a long way to supporting that aspiration.”
“It’s hard to see anything against this,” Coun Gordon Castle said. “We must manage public expectations, it’s not going to happen next week, but it’s a very good solution for the medium term.”
Coun Barry Flux added: “This is very much an application which shows that this county is open for business. In other places, you see employment land being lost for housing.”
The scheme sparked just two objections, while Newbiggin-By-The Sea Town Council ‘welcomes the development of this major site for employment creation’. Lynemouth Parish Council chose not to respond.
The few outstanding issues relating to the likes of flooding/drainage and off-site highway works at the Ashwood roundabout had been resolved by the meeting.
As it is in outline, all other matters – such as landscaping, layout, appearance and scale – will be determined at a later date.
After the meeting, Eddie Peat, director for North East and Corporate Development at Harworth Group, said: “We’re delighted to have received the support of Northumberland County Council for our scheme that will make a major contribution to the North East’s economy.
“We remain fully committed to creating a first-class commercial centre that can provide up to 650 new jobs in accordance with local planning policy and we will now promote the site’s significant assets, including its railhead, to potential occupiers.”
Planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore supported Harworth in developing the plans.
Claire Kent, director at Barton Willmore, said: “This is a major step towards regenerating one of Northumberland’s most significant former industrial sites.
“Harworth’s exciting plans will bring much-needed new high value jobs to the area and create long-term sustainability.”
Harworth will now focus its efforts on preparing the land for re-development and promoting the site to key international and national businesses.
Plans for 34 new homes in Stannington were back before councillors following the withdrawal of the county’s core strategy.
However, the proposal, for the Stannington and Birchwood Nurseries sites on Station Road, which was first given the nod in April, was approved once again.
In this case, as with some dealt with last month, the approval has not been signed off due to outstanding issues and as the policies in the core strategy, which the new Conservative administration withdrew in July, were key in the initial decision, the application has returned.
Coun Jeff Reid raised concerns about the design of the development, which council officers said was acceptable, not necessarily good.
He said: “I just groaned when I saw the house types. Where is the invention, where is the Northumberland style? It’s going to be a bog-standard estate in a place where it could be really nice if people put some effort in.”
However, it was felt both now and when previously approved that the scheme is far preferable to an existing approval for 27 homes on just half of the site.