The house-building arm of the Northumberland County Council-owned company Arch has denied jumping the gun on an unpopular homes plan in Alnwick.
A scheme for Allerburn House, the former headquarters of Alnwick District Council, was previously approved, but it has now been changed to the extent that a new application was lodged in February.
The first overhaul, which was unveiled back in 2016, was approved by the council’s strategic planning committee in January last year and the permission remains extant.
This scheme would see new-build elements comprising six five-bedroom houses and four four-bedroom properties, while Allerburn House would be converted into four two-bedroom and three one-bedroom apartments.
One of the extensions to the north of Allerburn House would be refurbished for two two-bedroom homes, while the existing single-storey lodge building would be converted into a one-bedroom bungalow.
Now, Ascent Homes is seeking permission for the refurbishment of the lodge, the conversion of Allerburn House into three apartments, the demolition of ad-hoc extensions to Allerburn House and the erection of 14 new-build units, including six three-storey townhouses.
Essentially, the new scheme features 18 rather than 20 homes in total, but there are now just three apartments and 15 houses.
The original proposals were largely accepted by neighbours, but the new bid has sparked more objections from Allerburn Lea residents and one from Alnwick Town Council, particularly in relation to the three-storey properties.
Duncan Bowman, development director at Ascent Homes, said that the developer has ‘worked with the planning department on the scheme revisions to preserve the character of this special location’, adding: “Allerburn House itself is three storeys in height and, with the sloping nature of the development, Allerburn House will always retain its rightful prominence.”
Opponents have also claimed that the developer has already started work on the new proposals, despite not having planning permission yet, saying that preparation for the six townhouses is visible on the site.
However, a spokeswoman for Ascent denied this, saying that while work started on site some time ago, the company has previous consent for what’s being done currently.
One resident, Peter Groves, lodged a complaint with the council’s planning enforcement team over this issue, but has been told that they do not normally take enforcement action while an application is under consideration and will wait for that to be determined first – which could be later this month.
Mr Groves accepts that this is the usual course of action, but says that while he expects this type of thing from a private developer, it’s not acceptable from a council-owned company.
In January, we reported that, just before Christmas, nearby residents were advised by the council that an application had been received to amend the approved plams, which sparked complaints that the amendments being proposed were ‘substantial and significant’.
The council then said that a new full planning application had to be submitted.