Residents praise decision to refuse housing bid

THE group opposing a controversial application for a Morpeth sheltered housing scheme has hailed the courage of councillors for rejecting the bid.

Officers at Northumberland County Council recommended that McCarthy and Stone’s proposal for 51 retirement flats for a site off Cottingwood Lane should be approved despite many objections from local residents and Morpeth Town Council.

But members of the county’s north area planning committee voted by five to three to refuse it.

The Cottingwood Lane Residents’ Action Group collected a 420-name petition and 112 letters which criticised the plans for a site on the Old Headmaster’s Lawn near King Edward VI School were submitted.

Their concerns covered matters such as road safety issues, the loss of green space, inadequate access and over-development when compared to other buildings in the area.

One of the group’s members, John Laws, said: “We’re very pleased that the application was rejected and it showed courage from those five members of the committee to go against the advice of their officers.

“Everyone living in the vicinity of the proposed apartment block was united that the development was in the wrong location and out of scale.

“McCarthy and Stone ignored all our points and it didn’t take its assessment of alternative sites very seriously.

“For example, it said the telephone exchange building in Newgate Street was unsuitable because there is a slight flood risk, but as it is relatively high up, if it suffered from flooding the rest of the town would be in big trouble.”

The points made to the committee by those against the application included that the entrance to the site is on a blind bend and motorists would be unable to see residents coming out of it onto the roadside.

They said the building would be more than the national planning guidance distance away from shops and a bus stop for such a development and as the Old Headmaster’s Lawn acts as a sponge for running water, it could increase the risk of flooding in the area.

It was also felt that it would prejudice the development of the town’s Neighbourhood Plan.

Cottingwood Lane Residents’ Action Group member Les Cassie, who is also a Morpeth town councillor, said: “We were very surprised that the officers recommended approval because we think the case against it is overwhelming, so we’re grateful to the committee for turning it down.

“We’re also thankful to Morpeth county councillor Andrew Tebbutt for speaking against the application and Graeme Trotter and Ken Brown, representing Morpeth Town Council’s planning and transport committee, for making it very clear how strongly members were opposed to the proposal.

“We hope that McCarthy and Stone will not appeal this decision, but if it does we will fight it again and I believe we should have every prospect of winning again as the case will be examined in far more detail than was done at this stage.”

Steve Secker, Regional Managing Director of McCarthy and Stone, said: “We’re disappointed that even though officers recommended our proposal for approval, it was refused by the planning committee.

“Planning permission would have allowed us to deliver a scheme specifically designed for people later in life which would have addressed an identified housing need of Morpeth.

“Through our extensive consultation with the local community we worked hard to create a sensitively designed scheme which addressed their concerns and attracted over 100 expressions of interest from potential customers. It would also have delivered other financial contributions to the area. We will now consider our position and decide in the New Year whether we appeal against this decision.”