Councillors have delayed a decision on plans for a year-round artists’ retreat on the north Northumberland coast, which has divided opinion.
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application for six mobile shepherds’ huts on the site had previously been submitted in November the previous year, but withdrawn in February 2016, with both proposals attracting significant objections.
Now, Mr Maloney wants to change the use of the land in order to allow five glamping pods 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 was recommended for approval at last Thursday’s (February 21) meeting of the North Northumberland Local Area Council, but after a number of different options were discussed, members voted to defer the decision so they could go on a site visit.
There had been a suggestion that a one-year temporary permission would be granted, to assess the impacts of the site once operational, but it was unknown how this would affect the financial contribution of £750 towards the council’s coastal mitigation service which had been sought as part of any approval.
The deferral to the March meeting means that the council’s ecology team can be consulted again on this matter.
Issues raised by objectors included 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 pointed 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.
Some of the councillors were concerned that, as yet, there was no evidence as to what the impacts would be, which is why a 12-month approval was mooted.
But Coun Jeff Watson, the only member to vote against the deferral, pointed out that there were no objections from the AONB, the ecologist or the public rights of way team and that it would be ‘against common fairness’ to impose a time limit on the permission.
Earlier in the meeting, Professor Steve Lockley, representing Alnmouth Village Golf Club, said: “We believe it will significantly increase the amount of traffic through the Common.
“The main objection is to the applicant’s choice of access for service vehicles.”
However, it was later explained that this was the route over which the applicant had been given right of access by the Northumberland Estates. There will be no vehicular access for guests, who will get to the site on foot.
Prof Lockley added that the golf club had ‘no in-principle objection to the business; we agree that the pods are not ugly and agree that the artistic clientele will respect the area’, but he called for a deferral on the decision ‘until the first season has taken place’.
Mr Maloney said that prior to taking it over, the ‘site was an absolute eyesore for our coast’, adding that his business is ‘helping offer arts and culture to the area and our arts retreat will help develop this’.
He claimed that all of the objections were from members of the golf club, to a project which he had worked hard on for the last three years and which would create jobs and bring revenue to the village.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service