Another decision due on affordable homes on Northumberland coast

The site of the proposed homes on the south-western tip of North Sunderland. Picture from Google
The site of the proposed homes on the south-western tip of North Sunderland. Picture from Google

A controversial plan for affordable homes on the Northumberland coast, which squeaked through earlier this year, is going back before councillors following the threat of a judicial review.

At the May meeting of the North Northumberland Local Area Council, planning chairman Coun Trevor Thorne used his casting vote to agree the hotly-disputed outline application for 20 properties on land south-west of St Cuthbert’s Close, off Main Street, North Sunderland.

The decision came on the day that the North Northumberland Coast Neighbourhood Plan passed referendum and this site lies outside the settlement boundary as defined in that plan.

Planning officers had recommended approval, as the scheme was being put forward as a ‘rural exception site’ with the homes to be affordable in perpetuity.

Policy nine of the neighbourhood plan states that, for development outside the settlement boundary, particular support will be given to ‘proposals for exception sites of affordable housing provision where they do not have a negative impact on sensitive settlement edges’.

Objectors had argued that approving the homes would have ‘a regressive impact on the importance’ of the new plan, which aims to deliver appropriate and sustainable development, but in the right place.

But in July, Northumberland County Council received a pre-action protocol letter, expressing the intention of challenging the decision for judicial review.

This letter talks about issues such as the scale of the development, impact on the sensitive settlement edge, impact on the AONB, and affordable housing in relation to local need.

A report to tomorrow's meeting of the North Northumberland Local Area Council responds to these matters, as well as reflecting on the publication of the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in July, and concludes that it ‘would not have a material impact on the application’s recommendation’.

Therefore, members are recommended to approve the scheme once again, subject to the section 106 legal agreement to secure the affordable homes in perpetuity, £35,200 for education and a £12,000 coastal mitigation contribution.

At last month’s local area council, a long-running bid to build new homes at the other end of Seahouses was unanimously rejected.

The application, for land east of King’s Field, was updated in August to propose 32 principal occupancy houses, all of which would be affordable.

It had been recommended for refusal due to conflict with the neighbourhood plan as the proposed development was outside the settlement boundary and within the coastal strip, as well as a lack of information in the application about contaminated land.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service