Controversial plans to extend Northumberland caravan site refused by councillors

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Councillors have rejected controversial plans to further extend a large caravan park in Northumberland, going against recommendations made by planning officers.

The owners of Percy Wood Golf and Country Retreat had planned to introduce 60 more static caravans to the Swarland site, bringing the total number to more than 400.

At Thursday’s (March 24) meeting of North Northumberland Local Area Council, the application was unanimously rejected by councillors, although one member – Cllr Jeff Watson – abstained from the vote.

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A total of 87 objections to the plan were received from local residents after it was submitted two years ago.

Percy Wood.Percy Wood.
Percy Wood.

Speaking at the meeting, the application’s agent, Harvey Emms, told councillors he appreciated the concern of residents but that there was “no supportable planning reasons to reject the application.”

He added: “The statutory consultees have no objections.”

Local resident Jackie Stent outlined villagers’ concerns, arguing they felt the site would impose on the village and put a strain on services – particularly drainage and sewage.

She said: “Drainage, sewage and flooding is a huge problem in Swarland. Last year a woman’s garden was flooded with sewage. The flooding risk associated with the extra caravans is high.”

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Parish councillor Susanne Stanley added: “The discharge of foul water is likely to be exacerbated by increased demand.”

Their concerns were echoed by Coun Trevor Thorne, who represents the Shilbottle ward on Northumberland County Council that encompasses Swarland. Coun Thorne proposed the committee reject the plans on the grounds of a negative impact on visual amenity, but also raised concerns about the pressure on local services.

He said: “Percy Wood was a lovely place back in the 90s, but it has grown into the most enormous caravan site. It is a settlement of two villages – the houses at the bottom and on the hill, the caravan park.

“Four-hundred dwellings that need water, electricity and sewage. It is a great big carbuncle. We are bringing them ever closer to the village.

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“Short lets mean we will have people who want to come to Swarland to let their hair down, they want to get in a hot tub and they won’t think about the residents.

“It’s always difficult to say when is it big enough. I worry about the future – there’s a lot of other land.”

But Coun Jeff Watson feared there was little in the way of planning law to reject the application.

He said: “I just wonder – this is a planning committee. It seems down to what is allowed on planning rules, and I can’t see an awful lot of things which are considered planning rules.

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“I know some people don’t like caravans – some people do like them, some people think they have a right to a view and we know that is not the case.

“I might be a voice in the wilderness, but we need to bear these points in mind when we reach this important decision.”

The council’s development service manager, Elizabeth Sinnamon, also warned members that all council planning policies supported the application, on the grounds it would bring a boost to tourism.

Despite this, councillors proceeded to reject officers’ recommendations and refused planning permission.

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