Locally-opposed bid deferred for site visit

The site plan of the proposed redevelopment of Willowburn Trading Estate, with Pure Fishing in the red zone.
The site plan of the proposed redevelopment of Willowburn Trading Estate, with Pure Fishing in the red zone.

Alnwick’s neighbourhood plan will face an early test of its mettle after councillors voted to defer a bid for 125 new homes at Willowburn Industrial Estate.

The outline scheme, by Northern Commercial Properties, whose registered address is the Estates Office at Alnwick Castle; the Harris & Sheldon Group, Pure Fishing’s landlord; and Northumberland County Council, was recommended for approval at Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s strategic planning committee.

The use of this site for residential development is contrary to the Alnwick and Denwick Neighbourhood Plan, which is going to referendum a week today.

However, while some weight can be given to emerging plans, as neither the neighbourhood plan nor the council’s core strategy are adopted yet, this application fell to be decided this week based on the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework).

But as the committee members unanimously decided on Tuesday night to defer the decision to go on a site visit, there is every chance that the scheme will be back before councillors once Alnwick’s plan has been adopted.

This will provide a different planning context given that the neighbourhood plan is clear that this site is not designated for housing, but employment use.

It will be an early indication of whether local people’s wishes will be accepted or whether developers can ride roughshod over them based on county or national policies.

Alnwick’s Coun Gordon Castle, Deputy Mayor George Mavin, Philip Angier, from the neighbourhood plan team, and James McLean, whose business is based on the estate, all spoke against the proposals at the meeting.

In earlier drafts of the county council’s core strategy, this site was for employment use before a change was made in a later draft to deallocate it – due to ‘high vacancy rates and the poor condition of existing premises, which largely make the site unviable’ – a move that was questioned given that the council is one of the three applicants/landowners.

The development also raises fears over the future of a number of businesses on the site, such as Pure Fishing.