Controversial alpaca farmer chalet plans rejected again by Northumberland councillors

A second bid for new accommodation for an alpaca farmer has been rejected by councillors.

By Ben O'Connell
Friday, 14th February 2020, 1:19 pm
Updated Friday, 14th February 2020, 1:19 pm
Stock picture c/o Pixabay
Stock picture c/o Pixabay

An application to demolish stables and a summerhouse on land south of West Duddo Farm Cottages, around two miles west of Stannington, and replace them with a residential chalet, was refused at a Castle Morpeth Local Area Council meeting on February 10.

Planning officers considered the site to be an unsustainable location in the open countryside and it would represent unacceptable development in the green belt.

However, as with the previous scheme, the proposals were backed by Stannington Parish Council, with the chairman, Coun Karen Carins, telling the meeting this was not an isolated location and the venture had strong support in the community.

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She said there was ‘clearly an animal welfare issue’, given a recent incident where some birds were killed which could have been avoided if someone was on site, adding it could be a sustainable business once the breeding operation is up and running.

Councillors turned down a new property in May 2019, which would have involved the conversion of the existing stable and summerhouse used while caring for the animals.

Planning officers recommended refusal on that occasion as they felt the scheme did not meet the criteria for a rural worker’s dwelling, one of the special circumstances which can allow development in the open countryside and green belt.

Given the small numbers and the lack of breeding up to that point, the council’s independent advisor ‘considers the labour requirement is for only around 0.1 of a full-time worker and it is not a financially sound sustainable business to warrant a rural worker on site’.

The agent for the latest bid, Craig Ross, of George F White, said this is ‘a new application with a new approach’ which should be considered on its own merits.

He agreed with Coun Carins it is a sustainable location, while his argument on the green belt was the site should be considered previously developed land and therefore the test is whether the proposal would have a greater impact on the openness, which he claimed it didn’t.

Council planners did not agree it was previously developed land, as agricultural buildings do not fall under this definition, and stated there is no evidence the land or stable has been used for livery services.

At first, Coun Eileen Armstrong moved approval, citing exceptional circumstances, seconded by Coun John Beynon, who said: “I understand the officer’s recommendation and we all want to protect the green belt, but it’s on the same footprint as the existing building and I would support it.”

However, Coun Veronica Jones said: “The fact is it’s in the green belt. When I drive home, I will go past dozens of fields with a few animals in. We would be opening the door for every one of them to come and put a house on them.”

The approval motion was voted down by six votes to three, with one abstention, before refusal, in line with the officer’s recommendation, was backed by the same margin.