Neighbourhood plan helps end long-running homes bid

The proposed development site in Seahouses, where planning permission was refused. Picture from Google
The proposed development site in Seahouses, where planning permission was refused. Picture from Google

The North Northumberland Coast Neighbourhood Plan proved its mettle as a long-running bid to build new homes in Seahouses was thrown out.

The application, for land east of King’s Field, was updated in August to propose 32 principal occupancy houses, all of which would be affordable.

The scheme, which attracted 50 objections from residents plus opposition from North Sunderland Parish Council, was unanimously rejected by the North Northumberland Local Area Council last Thursday.

It had been recommended for refusal due to the development being outside the settlement boundary and within the coastal strip as well as a lack of information about contaminated land.

These issues, plus others, were highlighted by objector Malcolm Cresswell, a King’s Field resident, and Jill Hall, clerk of the parish council, at the meeting.

Mr Cresswell said: “The applicant has no interest in the village, it’s an interest financially.”

Meanwhile, Mrs Hall highlighted the importance of the settlement boundary as it ‘aims to prevent sprawl in this sensitive area’.

But the applicant’s agent, Katie Wood, said that Seahouses is defined as a service centre and therefore a suitable location for housing in all of the recent local plans, with this being one of the few sites in the village ‘that could offer meaningful housing development’.

She also pointed out that this scheme has been in the pipeline for some time, with repeated changes and updates to respond to concerns or new requests raised by various planning officers.

Coun Guy Renner-Thompson, the local ward member, moved refusal, saying: “As a developer, that’s the risk you take; markets change, policies change.

“We have the North Northumberland Coast Neighbourhood Plan which went to referendum and was passed with 90 per cent in favour and that’s a clear indication that people don’t want housing there.”

The latest changes meant that all of the properties, on the seaward side of the housing development often described as a ‘ghost estate’ due to the high number of second homes, would have to be lived in full-time by local people in housing need.

These amendments were a response to the North Northumberland Coast Neighbourhood Plan, which passed referendum in May before being formally ‘made’ by the county council in July.

The well-publicised policy 14 states that all new housing will only be supported if it is restricted in perpetuity for principal residency.

The application site also falls outside the Seahouses settlement boundary, as defined in the neighbourhood plan.

Policy nine does allow for exceptions, including for 100 per cent affordable housing provision, but planning officer Ragu Sittambalam explained that given the recent approval of other affordable housing sites in the village, there was not the demand that would enable this to be considered a rural exception site.

This bid was also considered to be a breach of policy four, which limits development on the coastal strip, as defined by the plan.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service