THE recent decision by the planning committee of NCC to allow the development at Dunstan Steads by Mr Gaston will be a cause of great concern to those who have a long-standing commitment to preserving and enhancing the historic landscape around the Embleton bay area.
The application was vigorously opposed by local people, and when the implications of this decision become clearer, many in the area will realise how misguided it is to have given the green light to yet another building development on a sensitive greenfield site.
I hope that an appeal can be launched.
There are many other visitors to the central coast I have spoken with who are passionate about preserving this landscape.
They are as shocked as I am that the initial construction on the roadside near Dunstan Steads last year was allowed and that now a proposed extensive development should be given planning permission.
The initial steel barn erected by Mr Gaston is an enduring and obtrusive eyesore and has effectively ruined ancient views of Dunstanburgh Castle from the north and south of Embleton village.
If that structure is an example of what is in store, then further development of the site will lead to the ancient character of Dunstan Steads being effectively destroyed, many of the existing properties are sensitive restorations of old buildings, one of which has been there for hundreds of years.
There are initial suspicions from those of us resolutely opposed to this application for a complex of farm buildings that is was a pretext for a new-build house on the site. Those suspicion look to have been justified, given that Mr Gaston has reportedly indicated he would like to build his retirement home there.
There is also a wider and greater concern.
If the application is not restricted and successfully appealed against, it will embolden other, predatory developers seeking to build holiday and retirement homes in this beautiful locality and also along the rest of the Northumberland coastal strip.
The area could become littered with new builds, having a ruinous impact on the character of the landscape and, ironically, would destroy the very places that such developers seek to promote as being attractive places to live in.
They may be encouraged to use the same tactics that appear to have been employed at Dunstan Steads to achieve this, first, by initially having a single ‘barn’ built, secondly putting forward that they need to construct additional buildings to make the venture profitable and thus able to employ local people, and thirdly amend the applications to include a house as a ‘necessary’ addition.
Iconic views such as those around Dunstanburgh Castle are inspiring, but they are dependent upon the wider areas surrounding them being equally valued and their integrity retained.
Judging by this latest decision by some members of the planning committee, such areas are not considered of value.
We need to include ‘the wider picture’ in assessing what can and can not be built.
We are living in difficult economic times, yet there are still many individuals and organisations which possess the resources to absorb the cost of initial outlays on farm buildings as ‘loss-leaders’ to enable them to realise their initially unstated aims of having desirable properties built and then realise a handsome profit on them.
They have the power to persuade compliant and acquiescent local council members that such developments can be of some economic value to the local economy, and in accepting these often dubious claims, councils disregard the more aesthetic but more important consideration of protecting the landscape now and for future generations – beware the property developer in farmers’ clothing.
This development, if it gets the go-ahead, will have a considerable impact on people’s perceptions of the area, and will greatly reduce its credibility in claiming to remain an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Does such a designation give our beautiful landscape any protection?