Housing plans come under fire

The field at Stobhill proposed for housing development.
The field at Stobhill proposed for housing development.

ALMOST 100 residents turned out at a public meeting to have their say on Stobhill housing plans.

The meeting at King Edward VI School on Monday was called by Northumberland County Council’s North Area Planning Committee following a request from Coun Glen Sanderson to discuss plans by Barratt David Wilson Homes and Tees Valley Housing to build 396 houses next to the A192 and A196.

Flood risk was one of the main concerns raised.

Hepscott Parish Council Chairman Philip Ashmore, who pointed out that the scheme would double the size of the parish, said: “Why is Barratt planning to build a new village while at the same time flooding the existing one?”

He was told that flood risk would be reduced as a series of ponds would hold back water from the site, which would be released into the watercourse at a rate of 16.1 litres per second, half the existing run-off rate of 32.2 litres per second.

A representative from the Environment Agency said he would have to examine detailed designs to confirm the figures, which would only be done after planning approval.

“From what I have seen up to now, I can say that there is a scheme that is feasible to reduce flood risk downstream, but I need more information on the detail,” he said.

Morpeth Flood Action Group (MFAG) Chairman Alan Bell said the flood risk assessment had not taken account of increased risk from ‘urban creep’, while fellow MFAG member Tom Smith said a sequential test was needed for other possible development sites due to the flood risk.

Planning officers said there was no need as the site was in the lowest category of risk.

Residents also raised concerns about road safety.

Barmmoor Bank resident Nicky Shiell said: “You say that 27.8 per cent of cars will travel north to Morpeth, leaving over 70 per cent travelling down the A192. It is an extremely dangerous road and this is going to be a massive increase.”

Other residents questioned figures stating that only 247 extra cars would leave the site at peak times.

The applicant said the figures were based on standard modelling methods and no safety issues had been identified, but further talks can take place.

A county highways officer added: “We are still in discussions about the scope of the traffic assessment. We still have some concerns about the modelling and about road safety, particularly on the A196.”

Several queries were raised about a lack of infrastructure to support the development, particularly school places.

Resident Vic Evans said: “With 400 houses I would guess there may be well over 1,000 children.

“Where are they going to go to school and how are they going to get there?”

Council officers said that while there would be a temporary squeeze on capacity at Stobhillgate First School, other Morpeth schools could accommodate the numbers.

However, Stobhillgate Chairman of Governors Adrienne Stoner said: “At the moment there is no capacity to take the number of children, but also what about the middle and high schools? They are no longer LEA and the high school is full to overflowing.”

A number of people complained that the application was premature as the Core Strategy and Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan are all still in the consultation stage and it is being suggested that future housing development should be to the north of the town.

There was also anger about developing a greenfield site. Residents heard that a proposed Greenbelt would exclude the site, leaving it open for future development, but consultation on the boundaries is ongoing.