Council-owned house-builder appealing council decision

The Allerburn Gate development in Alnwick.
The Allerburn Gate development in Alnwick.

Residents are angry that a developer which is ultimately answerable to the taxpayer seems determined to go against the wishes of the community and councillors.

Ascent Homes, the house-building arm of the council’s development company Arch, was given planning permission for a residential scheme at Allerburn House, the former HQ of Alnwick District Council, back in January 2017.

The plans, to convert the house and other buildings on the site as well as creating 10 new homes, was largely supported in the town and sparked very little opposition.

However, in late 2017, Ascent attempted to get changes approved by varying the original planning permission, but was told by the county council that it would have to submit a separate application.

Lodged in February this year, it sought the refurbishment of the lodge, the conversion of Allerburn House into three apartments, the demolition of ad-hoc extensions and the erection of 14 new-build units, including six three-storey townhouses.

Planning officers recommended approval, but members of the North Northumberland Local Area Council unanimously rejected the scheme in April.

As reported last month, the developer has now lodged a third bid which retains the contentious townhouse element, which was the main reason for refusal when it went before the councillors.

Ian Lawrence, an Allerburn Lea resident, said: “The residents here aren’t dinosaurs, we accept that development is necessary for housing and an increasing population to support local services.

“We supported the original plans for detached homes and nine apartments in the old house, which still stand as the only approved planning for the site, but Ascent seems determined not to implement them.”

Plus, the company has also lodged an appeal against April’s refusal, underlining its apparent determination to get the six townhouses approved.

The appeal hearing would see a company wholly owned by Northumberland County Council fighting a decision made by Northumberland County Council.

A county council spokeswoman said: “Planning decisions are independent to other functions and services within the council, including Arch, and as such Arch as the applicant is entitled to take whatever next steps it thinks appropriate.”

An Ascent Homes spokeswoman added: “Following the recent refusal, we have met a member of planning on site to discuss the proposals and also to provide further supporting information in support of our original submission.

“Following this meeting, we have reduced the height of the town houses and removed the balconies in accordance with their wishes.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service