Plans for market square in Ponteland would be 'harmful' to village

Controversial plans to create a Victorian-style market square in Ponteland have received a significant setback.

By Andrew Coulson
Wednesday, 1st June 2022, 10:15 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd June 2022, 11:59 am

Rialto submitted an application for The Orchard, a large outdoor expansion for the Italian restaurant complete with food and drink offerings, in January.

Various organisations and Northumberland County Council departments have been assessing the bid since then and now both the local authority’s building conservation officer and Historic England have raised major concerns over the harm they believe the scheme would cause to the village’s conservation area.

The development, which would have space for 350 people, would be created on an unused plot of land that currently acts as an overspill car park for properties on Main Road.

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Rialto plans to create The Orchard in a major expansion plan.

It has attracted more than 100 objections on the county council’s planning portal, compared to just one supporting comment.

The comments of Sharon Kelly, the council’s building conservation officer, include the following: “When the form, height, scale and massing of the proposed scheme is evaluated in the context of the established townscape, building grain and the site’s contribution to the green corridor along the river, it is considered that the development would unbalance this arrangement to such a degree that it would be harmful to the historic core of the conservation area.

“The application warrants refusal on design and heritage grounds.”

A conservation area is defined in law as ‘an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’.

The response from Historic England states: “We consider that the proposal would be so contrary to the character and appearance of the conservation area that it would cause a notable degree of harm to its significance as a designated heritage asset.”

Residents against the scheme say there is a lack of parking, there would be noise issues and it would have a negative impact on the character of Ponteland.

A design and access statement from Rialto outlines how the development would be made up of market stalls, retail units and food vendors, spaced out over around 13,000 sq ft, and sets out how parking and traffic will be managed.

A 30 page noise assessment found that “patron noise from all seating and standing areas being fully occupied is likely to result in a negligible impact”.