Holiday park plans rejected

Elm Park Proposed Site Layout Plan and details of the proposed log cabins.
Elm Park Proposed Site Layout Plan and details of the proposed log cabins.
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PLANS for a new holiday park in north Northumberland were thrown out by councillors due to concerns that it could jeopardise the future dualling of the A1.

The scheme – which would be known as Elm Park and consist of 36 holiday lodges and nine touring caravan pitches – would be situated on land to the east of Burgham Park Golf Club and west of the A1.

However, the ‘green’ preferred route for a dualled A1 would go right through the site.

The county council’s highways department had originally objected to the scheme but had to withdraw this when the Highways Agency, which is responsible for major trunk roads, did not object.

The planning report stated: “The Highways Agency has raised no objection to the proposal on the grounds that they feel unable to maintain an objection as the scheme sits outwith the major scheme programme.

“The A1 Morpeth to Felton dualling scheme was not identified as a funding priority in the period up to 2016. The dualling scheme is currently on hold.

“In light of the Highways Agency’s comments, the highways department has stated that they are unable to sustain an objection on such grounds.”

At last Thursday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s north area planning committee, ward member Coun Glen Sanderson said the campaign to dual the A1 had united politicians and local people.

“It’s something we musn’t lose sight of or give up on,” he said.

“It would mark the beginning of the end of this campaign that has been worth fighting for and is still worth fighting for.”

But the applicant’s agent, Gary Swarbrick, supported the officer’s recommendation that the scheme be approved.

“It needs to be recognised there’s currently no funding in place and currently no scheme in place,” he added.

However committee members agreed that the A1 dualling scheme was too important to give up on.

Coun Trevor Thorne said: “This is all to do with a dangerous road, ie. a road that moves from dual carriageway to single carriageway and back to dual carriageway.

“The Highways Agency is responsible for the A1 but we as a county council are responsible for the roads off it.

“I’m not going to be the councillor who sabotages the green route of the A1.

“Everyone agrees this is what we want, this is what we need, to open up the economy of Northumberland.”

And Coun Dougie Watkin said: “If planning is about anything, it’s about putting things in the right place.

“This is the wrong thing in the wrong place.

“This piece of land isn’t just any piece of land, it’s the only piece of land adjacent to the A1 at that point.”

The Highways Agency was also criticised for leaving the council in a difficult position.

Coun Robert Arckless said: “I think the Highways Agency has placed the officers of this council and us as elected members in an awful position.

“That we can’t protect this site is, in my view, a disgrace, an absolute disgrace.”

Coun Watkin suggested deferring the decision, which had already been deferred from the April meeting, to go back to the Highways Agency and underline how important the A1 scheme is to Northumberland.

But the county council’s highways development officer Jack Watson told members that he had had several discussions and was told that this decision had gone to ministerial level.

He agreed with the committee though, describing it as a ‘bit of a short-sighted response from the Highways Agency’.

“It doesn’t show an awful lot of confidence in the dualling scheme in the future if the Highways Agency is not willing to protect it for the future,” he added.