Controversial Northumberland housing development to go ahead after developer wins appeal

A controversial housing development in Morpeth will now go ahead, after the developer was successful in its appeal.

By Ben O'Connell
Thursday, 19th September 2019, 7:00 am
Stock picture of a building taking shape. Picture by Ian Nicholson/PA Wire
Stock picture of a building taking shape. Picture by Ian Nicholson/PA Wire

Persimmon’s bid to build 53 new homes on land north of The Garth, off Pottery Bank, was turned down twice by county councillors, but has now been given the green light by a Government-appointed planning inspector.

At a public inquiry in June, Simon Pickles, the barrister representing Northumberland County Council, warned that allowing the appeal would have ‘a significant harmful outcome, eroding confidence in the neighbourhood planning process’.

However, Paul Cairnes QC, representing the developer, claimed that the scheme does not in fact conflict with the policies in the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan (MNP), highlighting that it was supported by the council’s professional planning officers on both occasions it was up for a decision.

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In the end, inspector Helen Heward came down on the side of Mr Cairnes, concluding that the proposal is acceptable and that ‘allowing this appeal would not undermine either the MNP or the importance of neighbourhood planning in national policy’.

The original application – the subject of the appeal – was recommended for approval when it went before the Castle Morpeth Local Area Council in February 2018, but members chose to reject it.

The reasons for refusal were a lack of information to assess whether it will have a ‘severe cumulative impact’ on the road network; that the site is not designated for housing in the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan (MNP); insufficient information on flood risk; and the adverse impact on the amenity of residents at Pottery Bank Court.

As well as the appeal, the developer also submitted a revised scheme, but this too was refused against officer advice in February this year.

This included revised versions of the transport statement and flood-risk assessment and last November, the committee reluctantly agreed to drop the highways and flooding reasons for refusal from being defended at appeal, but only after being briefed on legal advice in private.

The remaining two issues were discussed at the inquiry in Morpeth Town Hall, resulting in the inspector deciding to allow the appeal and grant planning permission.

In her decision, which was issued last week, she said: ‘The MNP is up-to-date and part of the development plan (DP).

‘The appeal site had been part of a scenario considered in its preparation, but was not ultimately a part of the chosen strategy for housing allocations. In this way I understand the community’s frustration and why the proposal might not have made sense to them.

‘However, having examined the MNP and all of the relevant policies at some length, I have found the fact that the appeal site is not an allocated site does not preclude it from development.

‘I have also found that the proposal complies with the policies and strategy of the DP when considered as a whole and would represent sustainable development in terms of the (National Planning Policy) Framework.

‘Therefore, allowing this appeal would not undermine either the MNP or the importance of neighbourhood planning in national policy.’

The inspector also concluded: ‘Overall, in my opinion, there would be neither any material adverse overlooking nor overbearing impact upon the residential amenity of dwellings at Pottery Bank Court.’

As part of the permission, nine of the homes will be affordable – five for affordable home ownership and the others rented or shared ownership.

The developer will also have to pay £40,500 towards additional GP consulting room space in Morpeth, £10,000 towards management of access in nature reserves in the town and £198,000 for education infrastructure.