Amended plans for more than 50 new homes in Morpeth, which have already been rejected once, were thrown out by councillors again this week.
Objectors and members of the Castle Morpeth Local Area Council both felt that the scheme, for 53 properties on land north of The Garth, off Pottery Bank, had been ‘fundamentally unchanged’ with the applicant, Persimmon Homes, simply having ‘tinkered around the edges’.
Given this, it was unanimously refused at Monday’s (February 11) meeting of the local area council, which had first turned down the proposals last February, on both occasions against the advice of planning officers.
The committee’s reasons for refusal last year were a lack of information to assess whether it will have a ‘severe cumulative impact’ on the road network; that the site is not designated for housing in the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan; insufficient information on flood risk; and the adverse impact on the amenity of residents at Pottery Bank Court.
Following this, Persimmon lodged an appeal and a public inquiry has been listed for June 4 to 7, but the house-builder also submitted the second application, featuring changes to some of the house types, an additional affordable home and a revised parking layout at the site entrance.
It included revised versions of the transport statement and flood-risk assessment as well, and in November, the committee was advised to drop the highways and flooding refusal reasons from being defended at appeal.
The councillors eventually agreed to this, but only after being briefed on legal advice in private.
On Monday night, members voted to refuse the latest bid on those two grounds still being defended – that it is contrary to the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan and the impact on residents at Pottery Bank Court, despite a separation distance of 70 metres.
Nonetheless, concerns about the impact on the town’s road network dominated the debate, with Morpeth’s recent, disastrous experience with traffic lights at the Telford Bridge junction clearly influencing councillors and residents’ preference for a roundabout.
Coun Richard Wearmouth said: “I don’t see any changes that address the concerns. If they really want to listen, they could listen to the point about the roundabout.”
Coun David Towns added: “I think the applicant has listened, but they have just tinkered around the edges.
“I appreciate the advice we have been given, but I have bitter experience of this with the Telford Bridge lights. Saying only seven cars would be waiting at any one time is palpable nonsense.”
Earlier in the meeting, Maureen Davison, representing objectors at Pottery Bank Court, said that ’70 metres at gradient is insufficient given the three-storey home elevations’.
“The application in its current form is no enhancement, it is Pottery Bank character assassination,” she added.
Coun Andrew Tebbutt, of Morpeth Town Council, had urged the committee to follow the ‘bold and courageous decision’ it made last year, adding: “You know only too well what traffic lights mean to Morpeth residents.”
But Samuel Kenny, representing Persimmon, said that the developer had listened to the concerns and worked hard alongside planning officers over six months to address them.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service