Harbour dispute set to rumble on

James Williamson and other residents of Beadnell at the Haven site.
James Williamson and other residents of Beadnell at the Haven site.

A SEASIDE community which has been torn apart by controversial housing plans could be forced to do battle again, as the bitter and long-running saga is set to take another twist.

Campaigners in Beadnell who have opposed a scheme to build luxury homes in the village breathed a sigh of relief last week when Northumberland County Council kicked out the contentious applications.

John Wall.

John Wall.

But their joy could be short-lived, after Beadnell Harbour Fishermen’s Society pledged to re-submit the project, which it says is the ‘only viable option’ to raise vital money to fund the upkeep and dredging of the village’s harbour for the next three decades.

However, objectors have vowed to fight the housing plans if they are thrown back into the ring and, with neither side seemingly willing to budge, it threatens to plunge the community into deadlock and planning conflict again.

James Williamson, vice-chairman of the Save Beadnell Association (SBA), said: “If it is re-submitted, then we will continue to oppose what they are proposing. It just does not make sense to spoil the coastline for a very limited period of protecting the harbour. We are absolutely determined that we will fight this through every way possible.

“This is not about saving the harbour, it is about the developers getting prime land to build luxury homes.”

While Mr Williamson said that objectors were ‘very pleased’ with the county council’s area planning committee north’s decision to refuse the plans, he told the Gazette that the problem of the long-term future of the harbour still needs to be resolved.

He hoped that the SBA – formed to resist the Society’s plans but which has since expanded to stop any inappropriate developments in Beadnell – could work together with the fishermen to come up with ways to save the harbour without the need for the housing scheme. He urged the fishermen to contact the SBA so both sides could enter into dialogue.

Mr Williamson said: “We are still committed to assisting with the long-term future of the harbour and will be happy to arrange a meeting with the fishermen themselves. The councillors expressed the hope that the passion aroused by these applications could be redirected to finding a solution for the harbour and we echo that.

“With regards to the harbour, we want to be a catalyst in trying to get a community interest company going, which will benefit the community and safeguard the harbour in perpetuity. It is about saving the harbour. We both have the same objectives. We want to do it in a way that doesn’t spoil the coastline. If we both have the same objectives, why can’t something be thrashed out?”

But Fishermen’s Society secretary John Wall hit back, maintaining that the housing scheme was the only solution.

The applications – for one, detached, four-bedroom property at White Rock, and a further two, detached four-bedroom homes at The Haven, as well as listed building consent – had been recommended for approval by planning officers before last week’s meeting in Alnwick.

However, this was subject to a section 106 agreement which would ensure ‘that the financial proceeds arising from this development secure the future upkeep and dredging of the harbour’ as well as the conservation of various historical artefacts, including the Grade II listed bark pots at The Haven site.

But members knocked back the applications on majority verdicts, on grounds including the impact the scheme would have on an area of outstanding natural beauty and that the exceptional case for the need for development had not been proved.

Mr Wall said those behind the project were ‘very disappointed’ at the result, claiming they came up against a ‘sustained press campaign’ by objectors, did not get a fair hearing on the night and that the councillors had been ‘misled’ and ‘torpedoed’ by emotion.

He said: “What is the point of having an officer’s recommendation which is then ignored? I don’t think our case was fairly heard on the night and we will re-submit so that the integrity of the planning process is respected.”

He said the applications were ‘carefully constructed’ and the scheme was a ‘definitive case study as far as consultation goes’.

Mr Wall claimed that the Society had tried hard to accommodate everybody and that the number of homes proposed for The Haven had been slashed from four to two. He added that the Society had met on Saturday and was still 100 per cent behind the applications.

“You need a viable application that sets you up for the future and that is what we are doing here,” he said.

l A village divided – Page 3