Planners reject £10m care home to allow for new station's car park

A £10m care home planned in Ashington will not be allowed to be built – because it will clash with efforts to reopen a railway line.

By Daniel Holland
Thursday, 3rd March 2022, 10:15 am
The proposed site of a new care home on Kenilworth Road in Ashington, which has also been earmarked as a car park for the new Ashington rail station.
The proposed site of a new care home on Kenilworth Road in Ashington, which has also been earmarked as a car park for the new Ashington rail station.

The Malhotra Group revealed plans last year for a 58-bed care home and a separate 12-bedroom specialist unit on vacant land in Kenilworth Road.

But the scheme was knocked back by councillors on Tuesday evening, on the grounds that the land is instead earmarked to become a car park that would serve the Ashington station for the Northumberland Line project.

The land was previously occupied by the Essendene care home until 1992, but has been left vacant since it was demolished.

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Plans for the new station at Newsham.

Network Rail opposed the Malhotra scheme, saying it would “prejudice the provision of adequate car parking” for the Ashington rail station and therefore “reduce attractiveness of the station, as well as exacerbate parking issues and congestion”.

Labour councillor Caroline Ball, who represents Ashington, appeared before Northumberland County Council’s planning committee to say that she was “100% against” anything that would prevent the reopening of the railway line, but Northumberland had a need for more care homes and she could not see these plans being refused under any other circumstances.

Committee member Coun Alex Wallace questioned why the care home application had taken so long to approve, given that it was submitted “long before” the railway station yet the latter was approved last September, though he said that the parking provision proposed for the care home was also “completely inadequate”.

Rob Murfin, the council’s director of planning, replied that consultation and discussion about the location of stations was already happening when the care home application was made.

Chris Mead, highways development manager, added that the developer had had “significant time” to come forward with sufficient information about their plans but did not do so until last October, by which time the station plans were already signed off.

Independent councillor Georgina Hill said she was “really, really uncomfortable” at refusing permission for a care home and claimed the situation “smells like a bit of a stitch up”.

Tory representative Lyle Darwin agreed that it was “disappointing to refuse a care home”, but said that the plans looked “squashed” and agreed with council officers’ recommendation to refuse it.

When the plans were announced last year, Bunty Malhotra, CEO of Malhotra Group PLC, said the development would “create jobs for the local community and will provide a much-needed facility”.

The committee voted to refuse planning permission on the grounds of conflict with the railway plans and an absence of “adequate information” concerning highways and parking issues.

That decision came after councillors had given approval for the last of six new stations that the Northumberland line will serve, in Newsham in Blyth.

Passenger services are due to be restored to the railway line from December 2023 or early 2024, with the main construction starting this summer, and will allow for a new half hourly train running between Newcastle and Ashington.

The railway line was formerly known as the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne Line and had its passenger routes axed in 1964, though freight trains have continued to use it.