A planning application was submitted earlier this summer by the Morpeth Congregation Of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The facility would be located immediately north of the recently constructed Co-op store in Loansdean.
The Kingdom Hall building, 25 car-parking spaces – including four tandem spaces – and associated landscaping would occupy a site area of 1,215 sq m.
The applicant currently owns the Kingdom Hall at 59a Bridge Street.
According to the design and access statement by John Hare on its behalf: ‘This late 19th century building located behind a restaurant/pub was re-modelled and extended 34 years ago, but requires ongoing maintenance which is both time-consuming and expensive.
‘Although the building has served well for many years, it has reached the end of its useful life as a place of worship and many congregation members will find access to this new site to be convenient, even within walking distance from their homes.’
But concerns have been raised by people in the area, including Ross Henderson, who said in his objection: ‘The road infrastructure was designed for the housing site and retail units – does the system cope with the additional traffic?
‘The original application for this site contained reference to a protected wildlife zone. This would be lost as the application site plans utilises all of the site.
‘The area already has issues with drainage. This proposal would further exasperate the issue with hard landscaping.’
Anna Willis states that the proposed parking and access for the building is ‘inadequate’, with the current Kingdom Hall being located in Morpeth town centre so users could park in one of the nearby public car parks.
She added: ‘Once the proposed spaces are filled, cars will overflow into the retail parking and surrounding residential areas as there are no alternatives nearby.’
The design and access statement says existing high boundary fences and hedgerow are to be retained and ‘a low Bastion type mesh fence and landscape planting to the front of the site, including lockable gated entry points for pedestrians and for vehicles at the rear of the site, are proposed’.
Gordon Pickard’s concerns include these security features, which ‘demonstrates that the proposed place of worship should not be permitted in a residential location where it would expose residents and their property to increased levels of risk’.