Homes bid at town site refused by councillors

The entrance to the site off Cottingwood Lane.
The entrance to the site off Cottingwood Lane.
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Councillor comments that a proposed new housing development in Morpeth had good and bad elements were reflected in the vote, as the bid was narrowly turned down at a meeting on Monday.

Amendments made by Peter Smith to the application for apartments and bungalows in an area off Newgate Street at one end and Cottingwood Lane at the other were welcomed.

But those who voted against said not enough had been done to address concerns raised by neighbouring residents in relation to the plans for four ‘dormer bungalows’ – one-and-a-half storey buildings – on the site.

The bid also includes conversion of the grade II-listed former Northumberland County Council premises into 13 flats.

Reducing the number of dormer bungalows from five to four was among the changes.

And county council planning officers recommended approval to members of the local authority’s Castle Morpeth Local Area Council committee, saying the benefits of the development outweigh the harm.

Their report said it would put the grade II-listed building back into an appropriate and viable use and would provide a ‘variety of open market dwellings, including the provision of dwellings suitable for young people, small households and older people’.

Concerns raised by residents at the meeting included loss of privacy and amenity to neighbouring properties in Orchard Mews and on Butchers Lonnen and the loss of mature trees in order to accommodate the bungalows.

One of the residents, Colin Wardle, an architect by profession, said: “Peripheral development around a listed building is in part dependent on a financial need to support the cost of the works to make it viable.

“The viability has been heavily compromised by the size of the bid offered by the prospective developer, which has driven the quest for secondary developments whose design is the subject of virtually all the residents’ objections.”

Kirkville, formerly a Presbyterian church, is one of the buildings in close proximity to two of the proposed bungalows.

The report says that the development would result in harm to the setting of the grade II-listed building, but officers believe it would be ‘less than substantial harm’.

Committee member Coun David Towns disagreed, saying that he believes the harm would be significant.

He added: “I know this building very well and it’s very important – not just to Cottingwood Lane, but Morpeth generally.”

Morpeth North member David Bawn said: “I’m torn because the applicant has made amendments and I’m very much in favour of the conversion of the listed building, but the problems caused by the proposed bungalows are still unacceptable and so I can’t vote in favour of the application.”

Coun Richard Dodd said he would go with the officers’ recommendation as they had weighed up the benefits and harm in great detail and, while Coun Richard Wearmouth said he fully understood the residents’ concerns, he felt that an appeal would be successful as the grounds for refusal would not be strong enough.

When it came to the vote, three were in favour of the recommendation, four were against it and there were three abstentions.