The local authority’s final draft of its core strategy – a key planning document for Northumberland for the period up to 2031 – includes a change which would mean the Willowburn Industrial Estate would no longer be allocated for employment use.
As previously announced in June last year, the justification is the ‘high vacancy rates and the poor condition of existing premises, which largely make the site unviable’.
However, at a county-council scrutiny meeting on Tuesday, Coun Gordon Castle pointed out that Alnwick Town Council had objected to this; it was contrary to the Alnwick and Denwick Neighbourhood Plan, which should be going to referendum soon; and that a firm wishing to expand had shown interest in the site, but was ‘given the brush-off’.
Plus, an outline planning application for around 125 homes was submitted back in October, having sparked a number of concerns when it was unveiled last July, and Northumberland County Council is one of the three landowners and applicants.
Coun Castle said: “A planning application has been submitted for housing on part of the site. It was obviously premature because we hadn’t deallocated it yet.
“Alnwick needs 1,100 houses (the core strategy housing figure) and the neighbourhood plan accepts that and has allocated land.
“The core strategy also allocates an extra 10 hectares for employment use, but this would take three away.
“Where is Hardy’s (Pure Fishing) going to go? They haven’t made a public statement but they have been there for years, it’s part of Alnwick and internationally famous.”
Coun Heather Cairns said: “I would support that because in the town I have heard that the people of Alnwick are both suspicious and object to the deallocation. The fact that the county council owns part of the land is not at all helpful.”
Other committee members, Coun Andrew Tebbutt and Coun John Riddle, expressed sympathy with the Alnwick councillors over this issue.
Joan Sanderson, principal strategic planning officer at the county council, explained that the proposals were based on representations from the landowners.
Head of planning, Mark Ketley added: “The evidence we have is that there’s very little appetite for users to come onto that site.”
The examination of the core strategy by a planning inspector, likely to be in the summer, would offer another chance for the town council to make representations.