Harbour homes refusal overturned


A CONTENTIOUS housing plan in a seaside town, which was kicked out by Northumberland councillors last year, is now set to go ahead after being given the nod on appeal.

The scheme is for the alteration and extension of the existing property at Cliff Cottage, at Bay View, Amble, and the construction of three new cottages within the garden area of the site with associated parking.

Artists impressions The Old Boathouse'Amble.

Artists impressions The Old Boathouse'Amble.

It had been refused by Northumberland County Council’s north area planning committee in December, despite being recommended for approval.

The plan had attracted numerous objections and was rejected by councillors on grounds including its impact on the Amble Conservation Area and the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

But the saga has now taken another twist, after a planning inspector overturned the committee’s decision and has given the scheme the green light, with conditions attached.

Applicant Matt Ritson has described the result as ‘positive news’ for Amble and development will start as soon as possible.

He intends to transform Cliff Cottage by providing improved accommodation while retaining the heritage of the former boathouse, which was incorporated at the property, but needs to raise capital from the three new homes to do this.

But the decision has been met with dismay by objectors, with one branding the application ‘laughable’.

Mr Ritson said he was ‘gratified’ by the decision of inspector John L Gray and added: “When I first stumbled upon the neglected and dishevelled old boathouse nearly five years ago, I was taken with its superb location, just within Amble harbour.

“For the past four years, we have pursued our original plan – to rebuild the boathouse and build further, much-needed homes on the unoccupied site to its north east to fund the necessary work.”

Mr Ritson said the new vaulted three-bedroom properties will be contemporary, energy-efficient family homes and they will be a “much-welcomed addition of quality homes to the housing stock of the town”.

He said the second stage will be to “re-invest the profits from the scheme into rebuilding the old boathouse itself, preserving a memory of its past use, while providing worthy accommodation for the town’s future”.

He added: “I am pleased that the vast majority of townspeople support my view that it is not before time that this end of the harbour is finally tidied up.”

Two applications for the same site went before the planning committee at the end of last year, both to alter and extend the existing cottage and to build the three new homes.

The first was recommended for refusal by planning officers and rejected by councillors, but the second – which included reducing the scale of the new homes – was recommended for approval.

However the county council’s conservation officer objected to the scheme and members rejected the bid.

But in the appeal report, Mr Gray said that the plan ‘could only benefit the scene, and thus the character and appearance of the Conservation Area’ and that he had ‘no serious criticism of the design quality of what is proposed’.

Both applications had attracted objections, including from a number of residents and Amble Town Council.

And the news that the scheme will now go ahead has rocked objectors.

One resident, who did not want to be named, described it as ‘disappointing’ and added: “It is almost laughable if you saw the site. It is a nice site but to put three homes on it is inappropriate and unsuitable.”

Coun Robert Arckless, Amble town and county councillor, said: “I can’t pretend that I am not disappointed. I didn’t have an issue with the principle of development within that site but I am not convinced that this is the right development. However, I accept that the process has been followed and the inspector has made a decision and unfortunately, as far as I am concerned, as a local councillor there is nothing else I can do.

“I agree with local residents that this is the wrong scale of development. That is the issue. But it will proceed, that is the way it is.”