Decision due on third plan for former district council HQ site

Resident Ian Lawrence was on hand to protest recently when the planning inspector visited the site as part of the appeal process for the scheme refused earlier this year. Picture by Jane Coltman
Resident Ian Lawrence was on hand to protest recently when the planning inspector visited the site as part of the appeal process for the scheme refused earlier this year. Picture by Jane Coltman

The ongoing saga of the overhaul of Alnwick District Council’s former headquarters sees another planning application go before county councillors this week.

Ascent Homes’ third bid for residential development at Allerburn House in Alnwick is recommended for approval at Thursday’s (November 22) meeting of the North Northumberland Local Area Council.

Ascent, which is the house-building arm of the Northumberland County Council’s development company Advance Northumberland, formerly Arch, was first given permission for a scheme at the site back in January 2017 – and work is well under way.

These 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 local area council unanimously rejected the scheme in April, although the applicant has appealed this refusal as well as lodging another set of plans.

The latest proposals retain the contentious townhouse element, which was the main reason for refusal when it went in front of the councillors before, but feature some minor amendments.

The report to councillors explains that ‘this has involved the removal of Juliet balconies, a reduction in ridge height and a reduction in the overall height of the windows in the third storey of the townhouse element of the proposal’.

Nonetheless, eight neighbours are still dissatisfied, while Alnwick Town Council also maintains its objection as it ‘does not feel that the minor amendments made to the design of the townhouses are sufficient to lift objection to the earlier application’ which is ‘based on the location, density and height of the proposals’.

However, the planning officer’s report states that ‘ it is acknowledged that there would be an increase in height and that the dwellings would sit forward of the former wing, however, the increase in height taken alongside the comparable footprint is not considered to result in a significant mass that would warrant refusal’.

If this latest scheme is approved, Ascent has agreed to surrender the previous permission to prevent them ‘both being implemented, potentially resulting in a significantly greater amount of development to that which has been approved in either circumstance’.

Approval would also be subject to a section 106 legal agreement to secure £85,000 for off-site affordable housing, in line with the previous permission.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service