Green light for 270 homes in Alnwick despite concerns

Peters Mill Lane off Alnmouth Road, which will be upgraded as the sole access to the new development.
Peters Mill Lane off Alnmouth Road, which will be upgraded as the sole access to the new development.

Road-safety fears and a departure from the neighbourhood plan have failed to derail plans for 270 new homes in Alnwick.

The hybrid application for land at Windy Edge, off the Alnmouth Road, was approved at Tuesday night’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee.

The bid is split into full plans for 81 homes, which will be built by Cussins, plus a temporary construction access from Denwick Lane and an outline scheme for a further 189 houses.

This area is allocated for residential development in the Alnwick and Denwick Neighbourhood Plan, however, the scheme does stray from the site boundary proposed in the plan in the south-east corner.

But planners considered this was acceptable as it ‘has meant that the more prominent land can be left as open fields which is supported in terms of the wider visual and heritage impact’.

Speaking at the meeting, Lesley Clark, from the Alnmouth Road and Allerburn Lea Residents’ Association, said: “We contend that the application contravenes the neighbourhood plan and the proposed junction with Alnmouth Road cannot create safe access for existing residents, new residents and Northumbrian Water tankers (accessing the sewage works).

“We also contend that members of the strategic planning committee are being asked to consider this application on the basis of unreliable, incomplete and misleading documentation, and that the consultation has been flawed.”

Concerns about the access along Peter’s Mill Lane and the deviation from the neighbourhood plan were also highlighted by Coun Martin Swinbank, from Alnwick Town Council, and Coun Robbie Moore, one of the county councillors for Alnwick.

But Colin Barnes, from the Northumberland Estates, explained that the development went outside the line in the neighbourhood plan for ‘better planning’.

“The most elevated and visible site on the west is retained as open space so we get a much better quality development overall,” he said. “The variation is not great, it’s been over-emphasised and it makes planning sense.”

He pointed out that an access from Alnmouth Road is what’s set out in the neighbourhood plan, adding: “Highways officers received a tirade of criticism and attempts to undermine their professional judgement. The conclusion is that the access is safe and meets necessary standards.”

Alnwick’s other county councillor, Gordon Castle, moved approval, saying: “I know the residents don’t want this development, I wouldn’t either if I lived there.

“We had four years developing the neighbourhood plan which effectively gives this site a minded to approve and Alnmouth Road was the access in the plan.

“Is the departure significant enough to warrant refusal? If we turned it down, it would come back and would the residents be happy then? I’m not sure they would.

“I cannot see a sound and sustainable planning reason for me to refuse it.”

Coun Trevor Thorne added: “I do think it’s worrying we are breaching the boundary of the neighbourhood plan so early on after it’s been to referendum.

“But both the planning officer and Colin Barnes had explained that breach in that it’s better planning and we are getting a better development overall.”

Committee members had previously spent around 45 minutes asking questions of the planning and highways officers to thrash out the issues.

Improvements will be secured as part of the planning permission, including upgraded rights of way connecting Alnmouth Road, Fisher Lane, Allerburn Lea and Denwick Lane.

The Estates will also have to provide 40 affordable homes on site and make contributions of £162,000 for coastal mitigation, £673,200 for education, as the Duchess’s Community High School is at capacity, and £186,300 to support GP services.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service