Town councillors oppose proposals for Headmaster’s Lawn development

TOWN councillors have unanimously opposed plans for new Morpeth retirement flats.

A 420-name petition has been collected by the Cottingwood Lane Residents’ Action Group against proposals by McCarthy and Stone to build an apartment block on the old Headmaster’s Lawn near King Edward VI School. Now Morpeth Town Council’s Planning and Transport Committee has echoed the concerns.

Coun Richard Thompson said: “It is disappointing when attractive green spaces throughout the town get built on. I think Northumberland is a big enough place to find other sites to build on other than using the last few remaining green sites that we have in this town.”

McCarthy and Stone says the 51-apartment scheme, which will be up to four storeys high, will enable older people to remain in the town and lead independent lives.

But the committee heard from Coun Les Cassie, representing the action group, that there is almost unanimous objection from residents.

He said the scheme does not meet guidelines for walking distances from services, nor the minimum sightline for pedestrians trying to cross Cottingwood Lane from the proposed access, while there are numerous other concerns.

“To summarise, we contend that the valuable greenfield site should be preserved because other more suitable sites are available. The site is unsuitable for a retirement home because it is too far from amenities and would have a dangerous entrance. The building proposed is far too big and has inadequate parking. There would be greater flood risk and unacceptable traffic chaos for all residents and school traffic,” he said.

Coun Ian Lindley said: “It is such a different development in the wrong place that the points make themselves.

“The scale is ridiculous for the area and we need to support the residents as strongly as possible.”

Coun Nic Best said the plot is considered brownfield as it is within the school site, but new rules to limit ‘garden grabbing’ may apply. He told residents that as the King Edward VI School Foundation is keen to sell the land they need to think about what sort of development would be acceptable.

He added: “The really strong arguments are about the mass and flooding. During the flood we had water running off the bus station and the car park through Burnside. We could expect the same thing to happen in South Terrace without that green field.”

Coun Ken Brown proposed 14 points of objection, including loss of green space, over-development, inadequate access, road safety, insufficient parking, flood risk and disruption from construction. He also said the scheme would prejudice the development of a Neighbourhood Plan.

The objections were backed by the committee unanimously.

A spokeswoman for the developer said: “The scheme has been sensitively designed, with varying heights to create an appropriate relationship with the immediate surrounding area, which will respect neighbouring properties.

“Access from a single point from Cottingwood Lane will be carefully designed to provide safe access and good visibility. Given the nature of this type of development, car ownership amongst residents is relatively low, but our proposals also include on-site parking places.

“McCarthy and Stone’s proposal would offer a real opportunity to introduce much needed specialist later living retirement apartments whilst positively contributing to the local community by increasing housing choice.”

The application will be decided by Northumberland County Council.