Green light for housing scheme on edge of town

A proposal to build 255 new homes in the north of Morpeth looks set to get the go-ahead despite concerns from residents and councillors.

Persimmon Homes’ bid for a site south-west of Northgate Hospital, Fairmoor, was given outline planning permission at a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s north area planning committee.

Although a couple of members were not satisfied with the details for discharging surface water and treated sewage from the development into the Cotting Burn, the vote was three to two in favour.

There were 17 letters of objection from residents and Morpeth Town Council and Hebron Parish Council were also opposed. County council planning officers recommended approval as, although a large part of the site is allocated for employment uses, they said there has been a lack of interest in the site for this purpose and opportunities to provide this type of land are available in other locations.

This area is bordered by the Northgate Hospital grounds, which currently benefits from outline permission for the construction of 250 homes.

Speaking on behalf of Hebron Parish Council, deputy chairman Andrew Kelly said: “Allowing two adjoining developments in this area totalling 505 houses would amount to urban sprawl and significantly reduce the rural nature of the access to Morpeth from the north-west.

“One further consideration is the rural parish of Hebron presently consists of only 177 homes and if these two developments go ahead, the resultant total of 682 homes represents a 385 per cent increase. If this is not urban sprawl, then what is?”

Coun Joan Tebbutt, of Morpeth Town Council, said: “The pending delivery of the bypass will make the site increasingly viable for employment use. County Hall, Morpeth’s largest employer, is set to close.

“This application is not sustainable as 505, or 255 homes, would form a satellite settlement with no local facilities. According to the county council’s expert witness for the Stobhill inquiry, industry guidance is that acceptable walking distances to local facilities are 800m, the absolute maximum is 1,200m. There are none within 1,200m.”

Claire Rowlands, who lives in the grounds of Northgate Hospital, said she would prefer housing to employment on the site, but the application ‘appears to reject local knowledge, especially around flooding, and relies on temporary measures even though the bypass and development at St George’s might not happen’.

Peter Jordan, group planning director for Persimmon Homes, said: “We have gone the extra mile to address all the issues with officers and statutory consultees and the simple fact is that if positive decisions are not made on those sites in the right place of Morpeth, ie. the north, those in the wrong place will force their way through.”