Minister to decide housing appeal

PLANS to build almost 400 homes at Stobhill will be decided by a Government minister.

Barratt Homes North East and Tees Valley Housing are seeking permission to build 396 houses on a field between Morpeth and Hepscott, alongside the A192 and A196.

Last month Northumberland County Council’s North Area Planning Committee voted against the proposal over sustainability and highways issues, but the applicants had already lodged an appeal on the grounds of non-determination, saying the plan was not considered within the statutory time-scale.

Now it has been confirmed that while a public inquiry will take place to hear the arguments, the inspector overseeing it will not make a decision as it will be passed to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles.

County councillor for Hepscott Glen Sanderson said:“We now know that the inspector won’t make a decision, the Secretary of State will decide this.

“If it had been decided by the planning committee there would have been full democratic input. I’m still hopeful that the process will take account of that, but the fact that this has been called-in is a concern to me.

“It is not clear why this has happened, but for something as important as this we ought to allow people’s views to be heard loud and clear.”

The application has faced strong opposition. A 445-name petition and 167 letters of objection were submitted against it, with just one letter in support. Hepscott Parish Council and Morpeth Town Council also opposed the plans.

Concerns focused on road safety, congestion, school places, flooding, settlement boundaries and development in the countryside, while the application was branded ‘premature’ when a Neighbourhood Plan is being formed.

Coun Sanderson said: “Let’s hope the inspector is persuaded by the sensible arguments that have been put forward by so many people. This remains an unwelcome application in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

People have until the end of March to submit their views to the inspectorate. Anyone seeking help can contact Coun Sanderson on 07730 979737, or email