Green light for overhaul of former Alnwick council HQ

An artist's impression of the development.
An artist's impression of the development.

A major overhaul of Alnwick’s Allerburn House and grounds have been given the go-ahead, but questions were asked about why affordable homes would not be built on the site.

The proposals, by Ascent Homes – the house-building arm of the county council’s development company Arch, were unanimously approved at Tuesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee where they had been recommended to get the green light.

The scheme involves the conversion of two existing buildings plus new-build elements.

The new-build elements comprise six five-bedroom houses and four four-bedroom properties, while Allerburn House would be converted into four two-bedroom and three one-bedroom apartments. One of the extensions to the north of Allerburn House is to be refurbished for two two-bedroom homes, while the existing single-storey lodge building is to be converted into a one-bedroom bungalow.

The application sparked two objections from residents, while Alnwick Town Council did not object but made a couple of observations, one of which, made by residents too, related to the potential loss of memorial trees on the site.

While not strictly a material planning consideration, the trees could be considered to have some heritage value and so a condition is to be imposed which will mean those trees must be either retained on the site or arrangements made to relocate them elsewhere in the town.

Coun Gordon Castle is also concerned that the other trees on the site could be removed by home-owners. He requested that a tree preservation order be looked at, although this is not a condition of the planning approval.

An even more salient point was why the applicant, Arch, was not providing any affordable housing on the site.

Planning officer Tony Carter simply said that the applicant had offered a payment of £85,500 for off-site homes and the county council’s affordable-housing team was happy to accept this offer.

Coun Richard Dodd said he had sympathy with Coun Castle that the money could be spent anywhere, not necessarily in Alnwick, but was pleased that ‘we have got something’, referring to other Arch applications which avoided the requirement altogether.