Councillors have given the green light to new homes on a farm site in north Northumberland, against the advice of planners concerned about its open-countryside location.
The outline application for the demolition of an existing building and redevelopment of a site at Christon Bank Farm for up to five houses was first recommended for refusal, despite the support of Embleton Parish Council, at last month’s meeting of the North Northumberland Local Area Council.
But members unanimously decided to visit the site, which lies around 400m south of Christon Bank, before making a decision, following a request from the applicant’s agent.
Its location in the open countryside remained one of the key reasons for the recommendation of refusal, when the bid went back before the committee last Thursday (April 18) where it was approved by six votes to two.
This was because a majority of members felt it was a sustainable location for housing given the properties already there and its proximity to Christon Bank itself.
Coun Jeff Watson, who moved approval, said: “It’s not often I go against officer advice, but this seems to revolve around sustainability and I don’t agree that this is unsustainable, being 400 metres from Christon Bank.”
Coun Georgina Hill was one of the dissenting voices, saying she ‘wished the same discipline and recommendations had applied to some previous applications’.
She added: “Looking at this application, I completely follow the logic and argument of what the planning officer has said.”
Coun Gordon Castle said: “I’m not saying the planning officer is wrong, but this is a matter of judgement.
“The site visit changed my view. If this was an open field, I would have said no, but there are already houses there.
“There isn’t a footpath into the village, that’s a pity, but it’s only 400 metres, you can see the nearest house.”
Coun Trevor Thorne added: “This is an on-balance application. I think the principle of development has been established in the little hamlet of Christon Bank Mews and Farm.”
The meeting had earlier heard from one of the long-time residents of the Mews, Mike Armstrong, who said that he felt ‘the demolition of this building and the construction of five beautiful, stone-built houses will add to a really nice little village’.
The applicant’s agent, Craig Ross, from George F White explained that the ‘aim is to provide a low-density, high-quality Northumbrian development’ that will complement the existing properties.
Council officers had also said that not enough information has been submitted in relation to contamination, noise, listed buildings and flooding, so the application will come back for final sign-off once these are resolved and appropriate conditions have been drawn up.
Plus, this scheme is in outline so the reserved matters – the details of the design, scale and access – will be subject to a further planning application.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service