Manor house plan slammed as ‘a joke’

RESIDENTS and parish councillors criticised the construction of a new manor house as part of a major redevelopment of a north Northumberland estate, with one describing the design as a ‘joke’.

However, there was support for some aspects of the plans for the Hettons Estate which include the new manor house, a hunting lodge with an eight-room accommodation block, two holiday cottages and a camping barn at Holburn Grange and five new houses at Laverock Law.

Thursday’s meeting of Lowick Parish Council was attended by around 20 people, including members of Tillside Parish Council as part of the estate – Hetton Steads, where there are plans for another five new homes – lies in their parish.

Councillors accepted the plans for the new houses at Laverock Law after hearing that they will be offered on shorthold tenancies which would make it unlikely that they would be used as second homes.

They will provide space for estate staff in the future if needed and one will be designated as an affordable home. Members praised the plans for saving buildings that would have fallen into ‘total disrepair’.

The camping barn, described as being able to sleep up to 70 people, raised the most concern among the tourist facilities as those at the meeting were unsure of what it was to be used for exactly or its target market.

However, the strongest criticism was of the plans for the new house, to be called Holburn Manor, with questions as to why the new owners Jan and Nico Geertzema, who trade as the President Estate Farming Partnership, needed to build it at all.

Resident Peter Robson, mentioning three other farmhouses, said: “If they wanted somewhere to live, why didn’t they buy one of the houses within the estate that originally was in the estate?”

Agent Simon Beeby said that they had not been made available at the time of sale, although this was disputed by Coun Jim Railton, of Tillside Parish Council, who said that three substantial farmhouses had been available.

Coun Railton also criticised the house in relation to the neighbouring National Trust land which leads to St Cuthbert’s Cave, and its design.

“I’m no expert, I’m not an architect, but I have showed it to three people and they find it astonishing,” he said.

“It’s just a pastiche, there’s no local vernacular. What we see in front of us is a joke, it’s an absolute joke.”

Mr Beeby said: “There are many houses that we find an attractive part of the countryside, they too were once new.”

He also assured Coun Stephen Mather that the house would be tied to the land.

Two members of the parish council were in favour of the plans, one abstained and one was against but chairman Coun John Huddart said that a full list of concerns would be returned to the county council.

“This will have a major impact on our community and we want the planning authority to have as many of our considerations as possible so they can make the right decision,” he added.

The proposed camping barn was the biggest talking-point at the Holburn Grange site, with questions about the type of business or visitors it wanted to attract.

Coun Huddart said: “It has raised a number of eyebrows locally, is it intending to capitalise on the closure of Ford Castle?”

Referring to other new youth hostels in Alnwick, Berwick and Rothbury, on top of existing facilities, he said: “It seems an over-development of that type of holiday accomodation in the area.”

But Mr Beeby said that the camping barn plan or concept was by no means finalised and it was a suggestion of another type of accommodation in order to use that building.

He said: “They (the county council planning department) didn’t want a piecemeal approach to the the plans for the Estate development.”

Mr Robson said: “I find the whole thing with the barn quite strange. He is going to build a huge house and screen it with trees, and 70 yards away he proposes a camping barn with 70 screaming kids in the summer.”

Members decided that they wanted more information on the camping barn before they could back the plans at Holburn Grange.