RESIDENTS living near the site of a proposed livestock building on the north Northumberland coast are drawing up final battle-lines ahead of an expected decision on the plans tonight.
The controversial scheme, which has attracted 126 objections and a petition of more than 400 signatures, would see a steel-framed livestock building, a 10,000-litre effluent tank as well as associated access, temporary accommodation, parking, fencing, landscaping, sewage treatment plant and drainage built on land at Dunstan Steads Farm in Embleton.
Northumberland County Council planning officers have recommended the plans go ahead and a decision is due at tonight’s meeting of the north area planning committee.
One of the major concerns for objectors is the effect it will have on the area, part of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) close to Embleton Bay and Dunstanburgh Castle, which relies heavily on tourism.
Mick Townsend, owner of the Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel, said: “We are horrifed at the lack of protection that’s being offered to the area where we are so reliant on tourism to keep shops open and buses running.
“It’s going to hit income and employment in the area if this is allowed to go ahead.
“It will change the landscape from a rural idyll, which is appreciated and sought out by tourists, into an industrial cow farm with the smells, the noises and the traffic that essentially tourists are trying to get away from.
“People will come for the first time but to be successful in the tourist industry you have to get them to come back for the second time and tell people and that’s what we’ll lose.”
But the applicant Ivor Gaston, who farms at Duns in the Scottish Borders and wants to use the site to rear young cattle, said he was ‘amazed’ at the level of opposition to his plans.
“All we want to do is extend our farming business from our farm here in Duns,” he said.
“We want to run them both as one, rearing livestock and building it into a family business that can be passed on to our sons.
“We are really amazed at the amount of objections because we are not trying to do anything out of the ordinary.
“It would not take away from the tourist attraction. The tourists that do pass the shed that we put up two years ago, lots often stop if we are working and like to talk about what’s going on and what we are doing.”
Objectors have raised a wide range of concerns including the scale of development and potential for additional development, visual impact, impact on residential amenity, increased traffic as well as the impact on tourism and the visitor economy.
Embleton Parish Council and the National Trust have objected to the scheme while both the Northumberland Coast AONB and Northumberland Tourism have raised concerns.
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Monica Cornall, a Dunstan resident, said: “It’s almost as if all the planning regulations are designed to stop things like this.
“Why are 126 people plus others on the petition objecting if it’s as clearcut as the statutory bodies and planning officers think?
“It’s a clear case of the people versus bureaucracy.”
She also pointed out that the new National Planning Policy Framework, released last week, was all about sustainable development.
“It’s trying to preserve for future generations a corner of countryside that’s in short supply,” she added.
However, Mr Gaston said that they had considered the area in which the barn would be sited.
“We deliberately picked a site that would not affect the landscape and surrounding area,” he said.
“We kept well away from Dunstanburgh Castle and it’s going to be kept mainly covered by existing woods.
“We worked alongside Northumberland County Council planners and the AONB to make sure we did it the way they wanted it done.
“We will be doing nothing different from our farming neighbours down there, we are not property developers, we are not factory farmers.”