A controversial scheme to build holiday lodges at Rothbury Golf Club has been given the go-ahead, with the planning-committee chairman using his casting vote to approve the bid.
The application for 11 grass-roofed lodges, near Whitton, was narrowly accepted at Thursday’s North Northumberland Local Area Council meeting in Alnwick.
Northumberland Estates, who is behind the scheme, said that the lodges would be essential to the ongoing vitality of the golf club, which will manage the development.
The application was recommended for approval by officers, who conceded that the development would cause some harm to the setting of the Whitton Conservation Area, but this would be ‘less than substantial’ because of the measures taken by the applicant to preserve the conservation area.
Officers added that the degree of harm is outweighed by the public benefits of the scheme, including to the golf club and the local economy.
At the meeting, principal planning officer Tony Carter admitted that the golf club was not the main reason for recommending approval, and their stance would have been the same if the scheme was taken in isolation.
The application has certainly split opinion, with letters of support and objection.
And the committee was also divided, with five members in favour and five against. It was up to Coun Trevor Thorne, as chairman, to use his casting vote – and he approved the scheme.
He said: “I think these holiday lodges will bring people into the area who will spend money in Rothbury and I think that outweighs the harm.
“The conservation area is well screened and I feel that the officers will do all they can in terms of landscaping.”
Coun Gordon Castle admitted that it was finely balanced, but he felt that the screening was acceptable in terms of harm caused.
But not everyone on the committe agreed.
Coun Anthony Murray said: “I think it will do harm to the conservation area.
“My main argument is that the design of these lodges in this open space.
“They would be very obvious and they would be like a sore thumb in that rural setting and this is why I feel so strongly against this.
“And the money from these lodges is only a small percentage of what is needed for the golf club to continue.”
Coun Georgina Hill agreed. She said: “For me, there is quite a ridiculous emphasis on the financial position of the golf club. I think there is clear harm with this development.”
Approval of the scheme brings an end to a long drawn-out saga, as the lodges were first recommended for approval back in February, but a decision on the scheme has been deferred numerous times for various reasons.