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Green light for extra homes at South Fields site

South Fields housing estate. Picture by Jane Coltman.
South Fields housing estate. Picture by Jane Coltman.

Changes which will see even more houses built as part of a 400-home development to the south of Morpeth have been given the go-ahead.

At Tuesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee meeting, members unanimously approved amendments to the previously-approved scheme for 396 homes on land between Stobhill and Hepscott.

The controversial development, by Barratt David Wilson Homes and known as South Fields, was approved on appeal by the then Communities Secretary Eric Pickles in December 2014 in the face of hefty local opposition.

Now, approval has been given to change the house type of 271 properties and add 42 new homes, taking the total to 438.

This is ‘due to market conditions’, the planning officer’s report explained, with the site being ‘re-planned to provide more two and three-bedroom family homes for first-time buyers and growing families’.

The scheme had sparked objections from Hepscott Parish Council, Morpeth Town Council and Morpeth Civic Society on grounds such as traffic concerns and the site’s higher density increasing the impact on infrastructure.

At the meeting, Coun Alison Byard, who represents the Stobhill ward on the town council, said that the main concern was the impact this would have on the already-congested A192.

She added that the applicant’s transport assessment was inadequate as it only considered the A196 where the two entrances into the development will be located.

The first phase of South Fields is already under construction and, as of January this year, 87 homes, including 14 affordable units, had been built.

Neil Milburn, from Barratt Homes North East, said: “Sales, particularly for young families, are going very well and the reason for this application is to further the opportunities for young people.”

The approved changes mean the number of two-bedroom homes will double from 40 to 80, while there will be 149 three-bedroom properties, up from 114.

The number of four-bedroom houses will drop from 103 to 95 and although the quantity of five-bedroom dwellings will increase from 17 to 22, they will have reduced in size.

The number of discounted sale homes and those for social rent would stay the same, but this would represent a drop from 30 per cent to 27 per cent of the total development.

Coun Jeff Reid said: “It’s not for this developer to worry about, but at some point we need the road across the railway line (linking the A192 and A197), because otherwise Morpeth is just going to come to a halt.

“There’s no reason not to build houses there other than Morpeth already has too many houses approved.”

Coun Barry Flux backed the plan ‘with a bit of a heavy heart’, saying: “This road (the A192) is very busy, particularly in the morning, but this is designated as a site to build houses in all of the plans.”

As part of a section 106 legal agreement, the applicant will have to contribute a total of £35,700 towards increasing capacity at a doctors’ surgery in Morpeth and also £198,000 for education in the town.

Ben O’Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service