Loss of green space leads to refusal of homes on school site

The former school site in Milfield. Picture by Jane Coltman
The former school site in Milfield. Picture by Jane Coltman

Councillors rejected a scheme to build new homes on a former school site, which was described as a ‘very raw deal’ for the north Northumberland village.

The application for 30 houses on the former county first school site in Milfield, north of Wooler on the A697, was recommended for approval at last Thursday’s meeting of the North Northumberland Local Area Council.

The school has not been in use since 2009 and the ‘closed and overgrown’ site, off Wheatriggs, features a school building and playing fields.

And it was the loss of this open green space which was one of the chief concerns of the parish council, also sparking an objection from Sport England.

Coun David Hughes, chairman of Milfield Parish Council, said: “The parish council doesn’t wish to throw out the good in pursuit of perfection, but nor does it want to support municipal vandalism.”

A majority of the committee agreed with Coun Robbie Moore, who said that the loss of open green space meant the development was not sustainable in social or environmental terms, rejecting the bid by eight votes to three with one abstention.

But some councillors felt that the planning officers were right in considering it not reasonable to withhold planning permission on these grounds as the fields have not been in use since the school closed and the likelihood is that they would remain redundant.

Coun Jeff Watson said: “There was a loss of open green space, but it was in 2009.”

Coun Trevor Thorne added: “We are slightly going off-beat, we are not considering what’s here.

“We all have wish-lists and it would be great to do something on leisure provision, but that’s not in the application.”

But members were also concerned that the community in Milfield was ‘getting a very raw deal’, as Coun Steven Bridgett described it, with no affordable homes and the contributions for education and health, while welcome, being spent outside the village.

No affordable homes would be provided as it is claimed the scheme would not be viable, but, if approved, a section 106 legal agreement would secure the first sale values of the homes.

These would be £97,000 for the two-bedroom units, £111,000 and £119,000 for the two types of three-bedroom homes, £127,000 and £134,000 for the detached three-bedroom properties and £165,000 for the four-bedroom houses.

The applicant would also have to provide contributions of £52,800 due to Wooler First School being at near capacity and £17,400 for GP premises, the closest also being in Wooler.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service