New homes bid gets green light

The development on the former St George’s Hospital site in Morpeth. Picture from Google.The development on the former St George’s Hospital site in Morpeth. Picture from Google.
The development on the former St George’s Hospital site in Morpeth. Picture from Google.
Plans for more than 150 new homes in Morpeth have been backed by councillors, despite the departure from a previous permission.

The application for 158 properties on land south of Bluebell Court, East Cottingwood, was approved by 12 votes to one at last week’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee.

It was described as phase 1B of the re-development of the former St George’s Hospital site, but there were concerns that it was not in keeping with the approved outline scheme, which indicated 115 properties on this plot.

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The proposals had therefore sparked objections from Morpeth Town Council and 42 others, but the bid was recommended for approval by planning officers who explained that this was a new full application, although the applicants had ‘regard to’ the outline permission.

Andrew Rennie, Vistry Partnerships North East development director.Andrew Rennie, Vistry Partnerships North East development director.
Andrew Rennie, Vistry Partnerships North East development director.

A submission from Tim Lloyd on behalf of a number of residents of St George’s Wood – phase 1A of the development – raised a number of concerns about the 37 per cent increase in the number of homes and the extra traffic it would cause.

“Our group asserts that there isn’t a world in which these changes from the outline application could possibly be categorised as insignificant and justifiable,” he said.

The meeting also heard a statement from Coun Andrew Tebbutt, for Morpeth Town Council, who described it as a ‘massive over-development’.

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He also said that the proposal ‘rides roughshod’ over the commitment from the Homes and Communities Agency for this to be a development which ‘honoured the special nature of this site’.

However, James Hall, representing the other applicant Vistry Partnerships North East, formerly Linden Homes, described this application as a ‘well-considered and sensitively designed scheme that complements its hospital estate and woodland setting’.

Asked about over-development, director of planning Rob Murfin said that while it is denser than in the outline masterplan, there had been criticism that all of the houses being built in Morpeth were larger ‘executive’ properties and this would address the need for smaller family homes.

The housing mix will comprise 13 two-bedroom homes, 81 three-bedroom houses and 64 detached four-bedroom properties.

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Moving approval, Coun Trevor Thorne said: “It is quite different from the outline application, but the higher density is responding to market needs.”

Coun Jeff Reid was the only committee member to vote against the scheme, saying: “Why aren’t people thinking about the place they’re building the homes? They are thinking about the house types they’ve designed so that they can maximise the profit.

“They are not doing this to provide cheaper houses, they are cramming them in so that they can make as much money as they would have done if they built the houses they wanted.”

In response, Coun Thor-ne said he did believe ‘the applicant in this instance is responding to market demand’ and while high-density, the design of the development is attractive.

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Approval is subject to the completion of a section 106 agreement to secure 10 per cent affordable housing, a woodland management scheme and contributions totalling £500,000.

After the meeting, Andrew Rennie, development director with Vistry Partnerships North East, said: “The aim is to continue to create a high-quality housing development, integrated into the surrounding woodland area, unlike any other new development in the locality.”