Contentious housing bid given green light

The farm buildings at Gloster Hill, which are set to be replaced with new homes.
The farm buildings at Gloster Hill, which are set to be replaced with new homes.

Controversial plans for more than 40 new homes in Amble were given the go-ahead this week, despite local concerns over flooding and road safety.

The revised bid at Gloster Hill for 42 properties, including six affordable homes, was unanimously approved by Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee on Tuesday.

The narrow Gloster Hill Road running past the farm buildings, which are set to be replaced.

The narrow Gloster Hill Road running past the farm buildings, which are set to be replaced.

The proposals include 14 houses, six two-bedroomed affordable bungalows and four two-bedroomed private bungalows on land to the south of Mariners View.

The scheme will also convert the farm steading into six houses and construct a further 12 homes at Gloster Hill Farm, north of Mariners View.

The main access is proposed off Mariners View, between numbers 16 and 17, but a secondary access is proposed to the north of the site, off Gloster Hill Road, serving a private drive to five dwellings.

Minor road improvements are proposed at the bend of this road.

Resident Martin Horn and Jeff Watson, county councillor for Amble West with Warkworth, both spoke against the development.

The major concerns were the impact on safety on Gloster Hill Road, a through route linking Amble and Warkworth, and the impact on drainage, sewerage and flooding, in an area which has suffered problems, including in recent weeks.

Coun Watson said: “I can’t believe we are building things where we know there are issues. We need to see better plans for sewerage, we need to be absolutely sure the drainage is right and we need to consider the cumulative impact of all the housing.

“Surely someone has to say enough is enough.”

Responding to questions from the committee members, the meeting heard that Northumbrian Water is satisfied that foul sewage can be accommodated.

There were worries about surface water, which is why it has been proposed that the run-off from the new site goes to the Guilden Burn and not into the existing combined system which serves Mariners View. This should improve the current situation.

The highways officer said that the five new homes which would be accessed from Gloster Hill Road would not create a severe-enough impact to warrant an objection and that even the mitigation on the bend was offered by the applicant, rather than requested. He added that concerns over pedestrian safety in that area were not supported by any accident record.

Coun Trevor Thorne said: “I still have concerns about drainage and flooding. I just hope that Northumbrian Water and our flood guys have got it right because so many people could be affected by this development. I have to accept the advice of our professionals, but I do have worries.”

Coun Gordon Castle pointed out while many would agree that the country has a critical housing shortage, people do not always agree about where they should go, particularly if it’s near to them.

“This does seem a slightly problematic site, but the issues have been answered by our officers,” he added.

Coun Scott Dickinson said: “I would ask that officers continue to monitor the road because it’s a genuine concern of local people. It’s important to note that it is a real local concern and, while it may not fit the criteria for highways, it should be recorded as a concern for users of that road, of which I am one.”

Speaking after the meeting, Coun Watson said: “I highlighted the recent flooding we experienced in the area, including sewerage and flooding at the bottom of the hill.

“Assurances were given by Northumbrian Water that they will sort the problem out. I am not convinced that the sewerage problem will be finally solved.

He added: “I wonder what the value is of these planning committees? It seems that once the planning officers have made their recommendations, the councillors seem to have no choice but to go ahead with the recommendation.

“Sadly, the committee did not share local concerns. I tried my best and I am not convinced that it was the right decision.”

Responding to previous criticism of planning committees, a council spokeswoman said: “Planning operates within a legal framework and all decisions must be robust. Decisions must also enable appropriate growth and development in the county. We have successfully reviewed the planning service which has streamlined and improved the decision-making process and turned around the time taken to determine applications.

“The service is properly funded and site visits are arranged where the committee needs to gain further information on a specific issue or to assist them in gaining a better understanding of the proposal. Appeals against planning decisions can be costly to the council and that is why it is important to ensure that decisions are taken properly.

“Planning committees are politically balanced and include members from across Northumberland. Committee members receive training on planning law and planning policy and make decisions in a politically-neutral manner.”