Flats sex offender fears not valid

VILLAGERS who fear paedophiles might buy new flats overlooking a school have been told their concern is not a planning issue.

Several of the 17 objectors to the eight flats at Widdrington, including two who said they had worked with prisoners, expressed anxiety about people who could be attracted by the development.

Grange View First School’s Chairman of Governors Janet Bewick opposed the application at the county’s North Area Planning Committee at Alnwick last Thursday.

She said she was speaking out “because of the duty of care that we owe to the children in the school” and that it would also add to parking problems near the school.

“We really feel it would constitute a danger to the children, should certain people try to buy those properties,” said Ms Bewick.

“We would not like our children overlooked when they are out in the playground, either at playtime or when they are out doing PE.”

Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Council Chairman Joe Sennett said he had received many phone calls expressing grave concerns about the school being overlooked.

He argued the site would be over-developed with two blocks of two storeys because there were bungalows all around.

Members heard the application from Wearside architect Mario Minchella had been reduced in height to 8m at the ridge, and from ten flats to eight, and was now recommended for approval.

Asked by Coun Gordon Castle if concern about overlooking the school was a valid objection, Principal Planning Officer Vivienne Robinson said overlooking was a consideration, but the likelihood of attracting offenders against children could not be considered.

Coun David Woodard’s motion to visit the site in Grange Road was lost by five votes to three.

Coun Trevor Thorne thought the development “would stick out like a sore thumb”, and Coun Robert Arckless agreed it was too large for the site. He sympathised with concerns about overlooking, but said many schools were in built-up areas and tended to be overlooked by houses.

Coun Dougie Watkin said: “I understand what’s been said from the school. You just have to think we are living in sad times.”

Members granted permission by five votes to four.