Call for tougher sanctions for developers after petition over unfinished work at Crofton Grange estate in Blyth

Councillors in Northumberland have called for tougher sanctions to be imposed on developers who flout planning restrictions.
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It comes after hundreds of residents of Crofton Grange in Blyth signed a petition to the county council raising concerns about unfinished work on the estate.

The 850 home development, built by Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon, was granted planning permission on appeal after being refused by the now-defunct Blyth Valley Borough Council.

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The petition calls on the developers to finish road resurfacing works, address missing and damaged kerb stones, complete pathways, and erect a play area included in original plans.

Roads and pavements on the Crofton Grange estate are not finished to a standard acceptable to residents. (Photo by John Tyler)Roads and pavements on the Crofton Grange estate are not finished to a standard acceptable to residents. (Photo by John Tyler)
Roads and pavements on the Crofton Grange estate are not finished to a standard acceptable to residents. (Photo by John Tyler)

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Ashington and Blyth Local Area Committee, members were told that the council was in a difficult position.

Planning officer Judith Murphy explained: “The play area is being dealt with, the enforcement team are in discussions with the developers on that. The roads are not yet adopted by the council.

“Until they are put into a section 38 agreement, the council cannot adopt the roads. We have no powers to make them do that.

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“Dialogue over the years has led us to believe that they are fully intending to do so, but they just need a push to do it.”

Road adoption is a term used to describe the council taking ownership of a ‘private street’. A new or existing unadopted road will be adopted as a highway, which is maintainable at public expense.

Ms Murphy explained that the developer has, up until recently, been using the roads for construction traffic and there was concern the heavy vehicles would damage the road. However, the development is now complete and the adoption of the roads is expected in the near future.

The issues at Crofton Grange follow a number of similar issues at large-scale housing developments across the county.

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Cllr Caroline Ball, who represents the Ashington Central ward, said: “Residents are left high and dry. There does not seem to be any clout. How can we make a difference? It just does not feel right.

“Developers should have better communication with residents. Is there now a way we can judge against them when they come back with a future application?

“How many times do they have to mess up and have a terrible reputation? Is there no way to mark their cards?”

Cllr Eileen Cartie added: “I think we have a got a lack of enforcement powers. It is spiralling out of control.

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“We need some kind of action, because it is totally unacceptable.”

Cllr Brian Gallagher said: “The reality is, at the end of the day we have to work better and get stronger agreements with the builders.

"They are coming to us with planning for thousands of thousands of houses and when you go through these estates, they are not what people want to live in.”

The committee agreed to raise their concerns with the working group for the Northumberland Local Plan, which looks at planning policy in the county.

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In September, Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon issued a joint statement claiming that a programme of remedial work was being completed as agreed with the county council. At the time, contractors had been appointed to carry out works including the completion of the roads and footpaths as well as the construction of the play area.