Councillors were not happy with the ‘tiny tweaks and minor amendments’ made to a previously-refused Alnwick scheme as they threw it out once more.
Ascent Homes’ third bid for residential development at Allerburn House, the former HQ of Alnwick District Council, was unanimously turned down at last Thursday’s (November 22) meeting of the North Northumberland Local Area Council.
Ascent, which is the house-building arm of the Northumberland County Council’s development company Advance Northumberland, formerly Arch, was first given permission for a scheme at the site back in January 2017 – and work is well under way.
These plans, to convert the house and other buildings on the site as well as creating 10 new homes, was largely supported in the town and sparked very little opposition.
However, in late 2017, Ascent attempted to get changes approved by varying the original planning permission, but was told by the county council that it would have to submit a separate application.
Lodged in February this year, it sought the refurbishment of the lodge, the conversion of Allerburn House into three apartments, the demolition of ad-hoc extensions and the erection of 14 new-build units, including six three-storey townhouses.
Planning officers recommended approval, but members of the local area council unanimously rejected the scheme in April, although the applicant has appealed this refusal as well as lodging the third set of plans.
The latest proposals retained the contentious townhouse element, but featured some minor amendments – the removal of Juliet balconies, a one-foot reduction in ridge height and a reduction in the overall height of the windows in the third storey.
Objector Catherine Huntley, an Allerburn Lea resident, described the application as ‘an insult to members of this planning committee because it’s almost the same as the one unanimously rejected in April’.
A statement from Alnwick member, Coun Robbie Moore, read out in his absence, said that the committee had previously agreed that the townhouses were unacceptable and the ‘developer has brought forward an application which makes no attempt to address the concerns that we raised’.
Coun Georgina Hill asked: “We rejected this before and it was easy to reject so why is it back?”
Chairman, Coun Trevor Thorne, explained that the applicant has made changes that it felt improved the scheme – plus it was recommended for approval by planners – but that councillors may disagree.
Coun Gordon Castle said: “Ascent already has planning permission which is not only superior, but has the support of local people and the town council.”
Coun Thorne added: “On massing grounds, the townhouses take a lot away from Allerburn House. The changes are small and really insignificant. I’m very happy to support the refusal.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service