Homes, not holiday lets

The former Boys Club in Alnmouth.
The former Boys Club in Alnmouth.

VILLAGERS are planning a public meeting to speak out against the demolition of a former boys’ club and its replacement with holiday lets, saying their community is more in need of affordable homes.

But people in Alnmouth admit they are powerless to halt the development by Northumberland Estates, which is due to be decided by county council planners tonight, because they can’t demand their preference for new housing.

The Estates has submitted proposals to demolish the former Boys’ Club on Foxton Road to change the use of the site to create 10 holiday homes, 15 car parking spaces and communal gardens.

Parish councillors have objected to the plans, saying they are determined to maintain a ‘viable permanent residential population’ in Alnmouth.

A public meeting has been arranged for Tuesday, November 29, at 7pm in the Hindmarsh Hall, which representatives from the county council and the Estates will be invited to attend.

Parish chairman Bill Bourne says it will still go ahead, even though the decision will likely have been made by then.

“In 2010, Northumberland Estates submitted a planning application to demolish the building and replace it with a complex of 10 holiday apartments,” he said. “Alnmouth Parish Council objected on the grounds that Alnmouth needed more affordable and appropriate residential accommodation and this site was a unique opportunity to provide it.

“In the end the application was withdrawn, not least because the county’s conservation officer was unhappy with some design details of the development. Reading through the correspondence between county planners and the Estates, it is clear that the parish council’s objections were not given much attention.

“The Estates resubmitted its plans, modified to meet the requirements of the conservation officer, but still resulting in 10 holiday apartments. The parish has objected again, but it is clear that because the village does not have an approved village plan which addresses the problems of keeping a balance between holiday accommodation and the needs of the residential population, the planners don’t have to take much notice. So they won’t.

“We’re now asking the county planners to come and discuss with us these problems, crucial to the survival of a vibrant and sustainable residential community in this village. We all appreciate and value the benefits of the holiday industry to our village and the parish council is certainly not opposed to holiday developments.

“But if we want to stop Alnmouth going the same way as Beadnell we must act now.”

The Boys’ Club was built in 1938 by Anne Scholefield, in memory of her husband Arthur, who lived in what is now the Friary. Control of the Scholefield Trust and the building itself eventually passed to the Northumberland Association of Clubs for Young People who, in 2006, decided that the building was surplus to their requirements. They sold it to Northumberland Estates but it continues to be used in the short-term.

When the Boys’ Club was sold to Northumberland Estates, its contents were sold to the Youth Training Trust, the present users of the building. This included the portrait of Arthur Scholefield, which the parish council feels should remain in the village.

It will bid for the portrait, which is valued at about £200, when it goes to auction, and has also arranged to recover the plaque commemorating the opening of the Club when the building is demolished.

Mr Bourne said: “These will be the only surviving reminders of what was a most generous gift to this community.”