Plans lodged for under-fire scheme

FORMAL plans have now been submitted to build 51 flats on land next to a Morpeth school.

McCarthy and Stone has submitted a planning application to build the three-storey apartment block on the old Headmaster’s Lawn next to King Edward VI School, with access from Cottingwood Lane.

The development, which has already attracted fierce opposition from local residents, would provide retirement flats, as well as communal facilities, such as a laundry room, guest suite and residents’ lounge.

Only 26 parking spaces are planned as the developer says that typically just one-in-three of its residents are likely to own a car, with the scheme aimed at people in their mid-70s.

The proposals have caused outrage among residents in Cottingwood Lane, who have said the development will be overbearing and dominate the skyline, spoil the semi-rural setting and exacerbate road safety and parking problems.

They say the street is already congested and is not suitable for the traffic that would come with the flats.

Town Councillor Les Cassie, who lives opposite the site, said: “The developers have made presentations about their proposals to local residents in the past year and have had virtually unanimous objections on the grounds that it is the wrong place to build this sort of development.

“There is no discussion about whether this is a good idea or not and I have to say that land has never been built on in its history. It is a very valued green space in the area.”

His comments were made at Morpeth Town Council’s Planning and Transport Committee after he asked to address the meeting.

The council has deferred a full debate on the application until its next meeting on May 30, but members have raised initial concerns.

Coun Nic Best said new planning guidance indicated that previous developed sites should be built on first and he was also worried about the flooding consequences of concreting over open green land in the area.

However, he said that the King Edward VI School Foundation is having to sell the land to raise money for the school and some development there may have to be considered.

Coun David Parker advised that the application is premature as Morpeth residents will be given the chance to decide where future development should be through the new neighbourhood planning process, which will include a local referendum.

“I liken it to comments I made at a previous meeting in relation to another application,” he said.

“In light of the fact that this council is a Neighbourhood Plan Frontrunner and this is a major application for 51 housing units it is therefore premature because it would deny the people of Morpeth the opportunity of determining where future housing should be located.

“This was one of the major grounds for objection to the Loansdean application for housing and I think we ought to be in principle raising the same sort of objections to any major applications over the next few months.”

The application will ultimately be determined by Northumberland County Council, but the town council could lodge an objection.

A spokesman for the developer said: “McCarthy and Stone’s strength lies in our experience of building superb homes tailored to the needs and aspirations of our older residents, promoting independence and allowing older people to lead healthy and active lives.

“Our plans aim to meet the needs of residents keen to remain in Morpeth.”