Holiday park could scupper A1 dualling

PLANS to dual the A1 between Felton and Morpeth could be scuppered if a scheme to build a holiday complex is given the go-ahead.

An application to build 36 holiday lodges and nine touring caravan pitches on land to the east of Burgham Park Golf Club and west of the A1 is due to be decided at a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s north area planning committee next month, after being deferred from tonight.

But the plan is for land which would be used for any future dualling of the A1 and any development there could prejudice the project.

The planning officer’s report for the May 3 meeting states that the county’s own highways department has ‘concerns that the proposal could undermine or even prevent the A1 dualling scheme from going ahead’.

Yet the development, due to be called Elm Park, has been recommended for approval.

County councillor Glen Sanderson, who represents the area, said: “If there is any chance of the potential A1 dualling scheme being prejudiced in the slightest way, then there is no way that this can go ahead.

“The dualling scheme needs to be in the back of people’s minds as it is immensely important for the welfare of this county and the welfare of the people in this county.

“I feel very strongly about this and I do not want this application to wreck or potentially wreck the option of making progress on this desperately important scheme.

“I have registered to speak as the local member and have spoken to the planning officers about this.”

Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith has written to transport minister Mike Penning about the planning application and how it could affect the Highways Agency’s plans for dualling.

Sir Alan said: “The Highways Agency should continue to protect its preferred route for dualling the A1 at Eshott. It is difficult to see what alternative route could be used if this area ceased to be available.

“Discussions with ministers, including treasury ministers, lead me to believe that the Morpeth to Felton section of the A1, along with the Mousen Bends, are the best prospects for improvement over the next few years.”

West Thirston Parish Council and residents have also objected.

A letter on behalf of William Kiely, owner of Burgham Park Golf Club, said: “This long-established proposal has been led by the county council; it has received widespread support from local organisations and all three main political parties.

“The current proposals indicate that the carriageway will be dualled and a junction constructed incorporating most of the site of the proposed development.

“The proposed development would seriously prejudice these proposals, either because it would lead to considerable additional costs due to increased land value or through the expensive diversion of local roads to accommodate a revised junction arrangement.”

It added: “The improvement of the A1 may not be imminent because of the present financial climate, but as the situation improves, public works to improve national infrastructure are one of the options being promoted to stimulate the economy.

“In any event planning, particularly road planning, is a long-term process and the further improvement of the A1 should not be prejudiced by short-term decision-making.”

Burgham residents Vicky and Peter Broughton added: “It seems unreasonable to unduly increase the cost of dualling by allowing a commercial business to be developed on an area required for road.”

The county’s highways department has referred the matter to the Highways Agency.

Gary Swarbrick, agent for the applicant, said: “As far as we are concerned there is not really a great deal to say. We know that the concerns have been raised by local residents and we are awaiting a further response from the Highways Agency on the A1 matter.”

An Agency spokesman said: “We have responded to the planning authority and it would not be appropriate to comment further before the planning committee meeting.”

Other concerns include the effect on wildlife and the increase in traffic on the Burgham junction off the A1.

The parish council also raised the cumulative impact of holiday parks within close proximity of the proposed site in its objection.