One step too far?

THE north area of Morpeth is the latest in the town to be earmarked for new housing.

As part of its re-development plans for Northgate Hospital in Fairmoor, the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust has submitted an outline bid to the county council for 250 homes on surplus land.

But this has caused concern among councillors about its impact on the town centre, particularly with Bellway Homes North East looking to bring forward proposals for 240 properties on a site it owns in Loansdean.

In its planning statement, the trust says the development would create a community well served by open space, recreational amenity and well-designed housing layout and road infrastructure.

While the eventual layout of the homes and landscaping details would be the subject of a reserved matters application by a future developer, Morpeth town councillor David Parker believes its wider impact should be taken into account at this stage.

He said: “The homes would be built in a site that is detached from the town centre, even more so than the Bellway site, and the lack of community facilities in the area would mean these residents would have to drive to the town centre for shops and services.

“There is a lot of congestion in Morpeth already and we could be facing much more if the Northgate and Bellway sites are approved, and don’t forget the developments in place at the Kylins and Gladstone Street. There is also the environmental aspect of more car journeys to consider.

“Another issue is the provision of education, particularly at first school level, if there is an influx of families.”

Coun Mark Horton said there would be safety issues about the access road to the estate as it would run onto the road coming off the A1 with traffic still going at high speed, although he added that the situation would be improved if the Morpeth Northern Bypass is built.

The trust is also seeking full planning permission for the replacement of the low security male forensic unit and outline permission for the replacement of the Severe Autism Unit. The existing buildings are no longer functionally suitable.

A spokesman said: “Both units require significant capital investment. This is why outline consent is being sort for housing as disposal of unused assets, such as land, forms an important part of the trust’s capital programme needed to fund new building projects.

“The trust’s land and property advisors believe that sale of unused land at Northgate Hospital for housing provides the best way to raise cash needed to build the new units. Outline consent for housing will optimise value and sale potential.”

The cumulative impact on the town centre was also raised during a presentation by Bellway about its plans to the town council.

The company’s Planning Manager Stephen Litherland said the homes would be initially targeted at Morpeth residents so not all the units would produce extra traffic on the roads.

A proportion of the homes would be sold at 30 per cent lower than the market value, based on an independent valuation, but Coun Andrew Tebbutt raised concerns that this amount would not be enough.

“If one takes the market value of houses currently available in the area, you are talking in the region of £250,000 upwards for an ‘affordable’ three-bedroom home,” he said.

“I wouldn’t class that as affordable, in my experience of this type of housing the figure should be around £120,000 for a three-bedroom property.”

Members asked if any community benefits had been discussed with the county council.

Sandra Thompson, of Signet Planning, which has been commissioned to submit a planning application for Bellway, said it had asked if it can contribute to any town projects but was told by the authority that this was not required – for example its location means it would not fit the criteria to be able to assist Morpeth’s flood alleviation scheme.

But there could be a play area within the site and there would be improvements to the Telford roundabout.

The two-lane section, which currently starts just before the Mafeking roundabout on the A197, would be extended southwards.

Mr Litherland added that the homes would be built in stages and the company is expecting to lodge a planning application next month.