Affordable housing gets the green light

The field in Acklington next to Acklington village hall.

The field in Acklington next to Acklington village hall.

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Planners have voted unanimously to allow affordable homes in the corner of a field, despite unease about the risk of major growth of the village.

North planning committee members backed the application for four semi-detached houses at the western edge of Acklington on Thursday. The site, with views to Simonside, is to provide the affordable element of an 11-home barn conversion at Cavil Head Farm, less than a half-mile north of the village.

The four houses next to Acklington Village Hall will be rented to local people by a social landlord at up to 80 per cent of the market rate. The barn conversions will be rented at market value.

Parish councillors and seven objectors had voiced concern that using the greenfield site could lead to much more building on that expanse of farmland.

Coun Robert Arckless told the meeting at Alnwick council chamber: “I think all of us have a degree of sympathy with that concern. It’s worth raising that point for reassurance that by accepting this, we are not creating a precedent.”

Coun Trevor Thorne asked if the four-home site was considered acceptable despite being outside the ‘village envelope’ only because the properties were affordable.

Principal planning officer Vivienne Robinson said it complied with policy because it satisfied a local need. Even if it were market-price housing, it could be considered if it met a local need.

Council solicitor Tom Graham said there was law on the requirement to look at non-greenfield sites first, but this was not such a case.

Coun Thorne moved approval because the social homes were in demand, but he was concerned about it being outside the envelope. That was seconded by Coun Gordon Castle, who shared the same concern. He suggested the village draw up a development plan, so it was in the driving seat rather than builders.

Acklington Parish Council chairman Coun Jeff Newton told the meeting that if the four houses on the farmland were allowed, it would not be long before other applications were made to build on more of the field.

The national planning framework said affordable housing should be allowed away from the main development site only if that could be robustly justified. The four houses would be better at Cavil Head, where there was a shop and a playground.

“As an absolute last resort, we would be prepared to see the development going ahead without any affordable housing provision.”

Agent for the two linked schemes, Richard Garland, told councillors: “We’ve been waiting to bring this site forward since 2004. We have now had a national change in planning policy with the aim of freeing-up sites such as this.”

The affordable housing was much needed in this community and the other part of the project would preserve the architectural heritage of the farm buildings. Those 11 barn conversion homes would go some way to meet demand for properties to rent in the area, he said.

Five people wrote in support of the affordable homes, saying they would attract young people to an ageing community

The Cavil Head barn conversions were also approved.