Bid for artists' retreat on contentious coastal site goes before councillors

A decision is due on plans for a year-round artists’ retreat on a controversial site nestled between two golf clubs on the north Northumberland coast.

Friday, 15th February 2019, 18:58 pm
Updated Friday, 15th February 2019, 19:02 pm
The location of Link End Caravan Park at Alnmouth. Picture from Google

In June 2016, permission was granted for the continued use of the former Link End Caravan Park, in Alnmouth, for up to five caravans between May and October.

Rather than a planning application, it was a certificate of lawfulness bid which sought to establish an existing use of the land.

A planning application for six mobile shepherds’ huts on the site had previously been submitted in November the previous year, but withdrawn in February 2016.

That March, the new application was lodged, which applicant Dale Maloney said was based on advice from the planning department that the huts would represent a continuation of its previous use as a caravan park.

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The planning officer’s report concluded that Northumberland County Council had ‘no evidence to contradict the applicant’s version of events and history of the use of the site’, describing the evidence as ‘sufficiently precise and unambiguous’.

However, this was disputed by objectors and the scheme sparked 88 objections as well as a petition of 298 names. There were 36 supporters.

Now, Mr Maloney wants to change the use of the land in order to site five glamping pods there to be used all through the year.

As operator of the successful Old School Art Gallery and café in the village, he is seeking to expand and diversify that business by the addition of the camping pods, which are to be marketed as an artists’ retreat.

This scheme is recommended for approval at Thursday’s (February 21) meeting of the North Northumberland Local Area Council, subject to a financial contribution of £750 towards the council’s coastal mitigation service.

However, it continues to divide opinion with the application sparking 31 objections and 20 letters of support.

Issues raised by objectors include the access and parking arrangements, and the potential impacts on the environment, the area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) and the golf club.

Meanwhile, supporters point to positives such as the economic benefits, the additional footfall to an area that traditionally struggles during winter months and the innovative use of a site which had become an eyesore and a target for low-level antisocial behaviour.

Alnmouth Parish Council neither supports nor objects to the plans, while the AONB partnership’s response calls for clarity. However, the report to councillors says the applicant has had informal discussions with the partnership to address its concerns.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service