The application was seeking permission to convert a vacant building on Waterloo Road, across the road from the Market Place, into an HMO (house in multiple occupation) with 17 en-suite rooms for tenants, while the front of the ground floor would be retained as a retail unit.
But the scheme had caused a lot of unrest, with residents concerned that the tenants could be homeless people and ex-offenders, resulting in increased drugs, crime and anti-social behaviour in the town centre.
The proposals had been recommended for approval by planning officers, however, the Ashington and Blyth Local Area Council concluded at its meeting last September that this was not the right location for such a development.
The applicant appealed this decision, but planning inspector Alison Scott has now agreed that ‘the proposal would undermine the vitality and viability of Blyth town centre’.
In her decision notice issued last week, she wrote: ‘Creating well-designed, safe and inclusive places is a multi-dimensional part of successful planning.
‘Crime and disorder and any actual or perceived fear of crime is a material planning consideration. It is not acceptable to merely suggest that anti-social behavioural incidents that may occur at the proposed site could be addressed through other means.’
Blyth’s new Conservative MP, Ian Levy, said: “I’m delighted the Planning Inspectorate chose to respect the views of residents and back the advice of Northumbria Police by rejecting the appeal for an HMO in the old Pal Joey building.
“I was unable to comment while the application was live, but I listened to residents who got in touch and passed on those representations.
“Residents are understandably very pleased about the announcement. I’ll now look to bring partners together to see how we can bring the building back into use in such a way that enhances the high street, not detracts from it.”
Coun Susan Dungworth, leader of the Northumberland Labour Group, previously said her party’s councillors, who form the majority of the Ashington and Blyth Local Area Council, would be ‘fighting this appeal every step of the way’.
Reacting to the decision, she said that while understanding that people need homes, ‘Blyth has more than enough of these types of dwellings’ and that the location was not suitable for this type of housing.
“We spoke to many local people and found there was very little, if any, support for the project,” she added.
“We want to pay tribute to the people who campaigned and we are pleased and relieved, as we are sure they are, that the right decision for Blyth has been made.”