Homes on Alnwick industrial estate refused again

Willowburn Industrial Estate in Alnwick.
Willowburn Industrial Estate in Alnwick.

A second attempt to build homes on an Alnwick industrial estate – described as ‘a really stupid place to put houses’ – has been rejected by councillors.

An outline application for up to 100 homes on Willowburn Trading Estate was unanimously refused at Tuesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee.

As with the previous bid, which was turned down last year but goes before an appeal hearing next month, this is because it is contrary to the Alnwick and Denwick Neighbourhood Plan, which designates the site as employment land.

Alnwick Town Council’s Martin Swinbank said: “Nothing in the new application has changed to challenge the fundamental reason for refusing the first application.”

County councillor for Alnwick, Robbie Moore, added: “I can’t understand for the life of me why this application has been brought forward.”

And the members of the committee agreed. Coun Bernard Pidcock, who had visited the site for a closer look, said: “It’s actually a really stupid place to put houses, although that’s not a planning word, but it is stupid.”

Neither of the applicants – Northern Commercial Properties, registered at the Estates Office at Alnwick Castle, and the Harris & Sheldon Group – was at the meeting to speak about their proposals.

Their first outline scheme, for around 125 new homes, was refused unanimously by the committee last July. It had been recommended for approval at the previous month’s meeting, but was deferred for a site visit.

Between the two meetings, the neighbourhood plan passed referendum and led officers to recommend refusal at the July 2017 meeting.

An appeal was lodged by the applicants and a public inquiry is set to start on Tuesday, July 17. It is expected to last six days.

In the meantime, this second application was submitted to the council in March.

As well as the number of homes, the site boundary has been reduced, mainly through the removal of the northern outcrop of the original scheme which belongs to Northumberland County Council, which was one of the original applicants before withdrawing.

This plot houses the council’s former depot, no longer in use following the opening of the new Lionheart facility where the town’s fire station is now based.

The application site still includes the home of the famous Hardy and Greys, owned since 2013 by Pure Fishing.

When the scheme was first announced in July 2016, Pure Fishing’s Grant Ottignon-Harris said that the company had recently signed a new five-year lease with the option of extending it for a further five years.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service