Charity is saved as county council gives green light to new Bebside station
A charity facing closure after its land was earmarked for a new rail station has been given a stay of execution.
Fears had been raised that Bebside Horses, which provides a home for more than 20 rescue horses, some of which suffered years of neglect and mis-treatment, while working with disadvantaged children in the area, could be forced to close or move to a new location.
Northumberland County Council had earmarked their land for a new station as part of the Northumberland Line, as well as a new bridge over the A189 and footpath leading to Asda, and told to vacate the site by March this year.
But charity owner Jackie Dawe said the initial financial offer was too low and there was no suitable site nearby, with more than 71,600 people signing a petition calling for the charity to be saved.
Now, after planning chiefs at the council approved plans for the station at Bebside, the council has said the charity can stay as it will not be taking as much land as previously planned for the station.
Jackie said: “We had a meeting in November and they said we could stay as they are not taking as much land. We’re just waiting for them to confirm it in writing.
"It’s great news for us.”
A Council spokesperson said: “We have been in negotiation with the landowners over the best way to secure this very important development while still allowing them to continue the wonderful work their charity does.
"We are confident that we have reached broad agreement on how this can be done, and we will be progressing the final details with the landowners over the coming months.”
After Bebside became the latest calling point to be approved, Newsham is the only stop waiting for planning permission ahead of the planned 2024 opening of a scheme bosses have suggested could help create an “economic powerhouse” stretching from Edinburgh to Leeds.
“This is so much progress on the green agenda and the economic agenda that we cannot not support it,” Barry Flux, county councillor for Cramlington West, told the local authority’s Strategic Planning Committee.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions about the [station] platforms and how they might not be ‘world class’.
“But in Manchester a lot of the tram stops look like this and anywhere else with this type of excellent rapid transport systems there are a lot of stations which look like this and I think we need to be realistic on that.”
While the overall Northumberland Line project, which will get passengers from Ashington to Newcastle in 36 minutes once it opens, has been largely supported, key elements have faced criticism.
Labour county councillor Caroline Ball has accused proposed station designs of lacking “wow factor”.
The Blyth Bebside plans have raised questions about the impact on traffic, particularly for vehicles accessing Cowpen Road causing backlogs on the A189 and A193, with further fears over how this could be affected by increased closures at the nearby level crossing.
Liberal Democrat councillor Jeff Reid, questioned whether the project was a good use of public money, as well as whether it would succeed in encouraging commuters to ditch their cars.
Rob Murfin, the local authority’s director of planning, insisted however that the planning permission had been structured to allow revisions to the plans “should issues be identified in the future”.
Last year, backers of the rail project hit back at suggestions the stop could be axed from the final plans.
Prior to the latest decision, stations had already been approved on the route at Ashington, Bedlington and Seaton Delaval.
Plans for the Newsham station are expected to be considered later this year.