Concerns over housing plans in Blyth town centre

The property in question in Blyth town centre.The property in question in Blyth town centre.
The property in question in Blyth town centre.
There continues to be anger in Blyth about the handling of plans to redevelop a building in the town centre.

The row relates to 27-29 Waterloo Road, across the road from the Marketplace, which was initially the subject of a controversial bid for bedsits.

Last year, permission was sought by Holy Eagle Property to convert the vacant building, the former Pal Joey premises, into a house in multiple occupation with 17 en-suite rooms for tenants, with the front of the ground floor retained as a retail unit.

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This caused a lot of unrest, with residents concerned 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 the decision, but planning inspector Alison Scott agreed that ‘the proposal would undermine the vitality and viability of Blyth town centre’.

This was followed by an application to retain the entire ground floor for retail use, but convert the top two floors into two flats, under permitted development rights.

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The original description for the proposals described them as luxury flats ‘for use by either a single person, a family living together and by not more than six residents living as a single household in each flat’.

However, this was changed – one of the issues which has led residents to have concerns.

Despite seeking a certificate of lawful development under permitted development rights, which means the local authority cannot refuse it, the bid still sparked more than 80 objections.

Many of these feared that the change would eventually lead to the property being used as an HMO anyway, something which Northumberland County Council has said is not possible without additional planning permission.

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But this is not enough reassurance for some who point out that despite legal requirements for HMOs to be licensed now, the council’s register currently only features two – one in Hexham and one in Blyth – despite there being several others in Blyth alone, including one run by Holy Eagle.

One resident, David Castro, has submitted a 90-page complaint to the council, ‘as it is believed the legislation and process have not been strictly adhered to’.

It adds that correspondence ‘to try to deal with this at the planning department level was attempted, however, we have been unable to get the answers requested and believe that mistakes have been made’.

A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “The council received a submission to convert the upper floors of the shop into two flats. This was made in the correct way so, unlike a normal planning application, there was no opportunity to refuse the proposal.

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“This does not give the developer the right to convert the new flats into a HMO and if they wanted to do this, it would require planning permission in the normal way.

“In terms of other HMOs, the Government has recently introduced new licensing rules and we are working with all landlords to properly register their properties.”