The march of the housing developers

A deluge of housing applications could see Morpeth swamped with around 1,500 new homes.

In the last week, permission has been granted for 200 and 255 homes at Loansdean and Fairmoor respectively, while an appeal is underway to build another 396 at Stobhill.

A planning application has been lodged for 225 properties at Northgate and the Herald understands that a bid is imminent to develop the former St George’s Hospital site, where 375 homes are proposed.

And the total could increase significantly if Northumberland County Council goes ahead with proposals to sell off County Hall in Loansdean, where it has been suggested that anything from 200 to 2,000 homes could be built.

There are also plans for 40 houses to be built at Peacock Gap.

County councillor for Morpeth Kirkhill, Andrew Tebbutt, said: “There are serious questions as to how we meet these challenges in Morpeth.

“In all of the rush for development, the thing that everybody fails to understand is the lack of consideration for schools and health services.

“I have spoken to many doctors and dentists and they are never consulted on these plans, but they don’t have the capacity to take more patients.

“We know the schools are full, but we keep being told that a lot of the kids are from outside the catchment area. The point is that once a child is in the school, you can’t put them out because they are from outside the area. We are going to end up with all these houses and the children who live there will be going to school in other towns. It is just nonsense.”

The community is currently working on a Neighbourhood Plan for the town, which will set out where development should be, with the preference so far for the north of Morpeth.

But it can only be adopted once the county council’s Core Strategy is in place and there are fears that the current absence of local plans is leaving the door open for opportunistic development.

Morpeth town councillor David Parker said: “I feel that Morpeth at the moment is facing a planning deluge and I don’t think the county council is helping the situation by the recommendations it is making in relation to this recent decision on Fairmoor and the previous recommendation relating to Loansdean.

“I just hope it thinks long and hard about any suggestion of developing the county-council headquarters for housing.

“It is not consistent with any strategic overview that anyone would take on this town. Strategic is the key word and that is supposed to be something that the county planners have to look at. They are not there to look at one application against another, they are there to look at the strategic development of the whole area.”