Green light for Northumberland lodge park on appeal

A planning inspector has given the green light to a residential park in a north Northumberland village, following a successful appeal by the applicant.

By Ben O'Connell
Tuesday, 30 April, 2019, 11:25
The lodges site in Whittingham, pictured at the time of the appeal hearing in January. Picture by Jane Coltman

The proposals for 12 lodges, on land west of Treetops, Callaly Road, a site which lies in Whittingham’s conservation area, was unanimously refused by the North Northumberland Local Area Council in December 2017 in line with the planning officer’s recommendation.

This was despite the site having an extant planning permission for five homes, dating back to 2013 – or so the applicant, Robert Young, believed.

Mr Young said that they hadn’t known this, having not received the official decision notice, but being told in discussions with planning and highways officers that they had done what was required of them.

In relation to this disagreement, planning inspector Andrew McCormack concluded in his appeal decision that ‘the appellant took reasonable and timely steps to discharge the relevant conditions and reasonably attempted communications with the council to this end’.

He continued: ‘I consider the council’s view regarding the discharge of all pre-commencement conditions and the principle of development and lawfulness of the development in this case to be unreasonable.’

Nonetheless, the main issue the inspector wished to consider, based on the reason for refusal for the lodges, was the impact ‘on the character and appearance of the surrounding area, with particular regard to the Whittingham Conservation Area (CA)’.

At the hearing, Ian McCaffery, the council’s building conservation officer, said: “It’s difficult to imagine how 12 lodges, with associated services, parking and materials which will be made in a factory, could be said to preserve the character of Whittingham, which is open fields and 18th and 19th-century stone buildings.”

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However, planning consultant Maria Ferguson, for the applicant, highlighted that Callaly Road features bungalows, while the five approved homes were two and three-storey, adding: “Lodges would be barely noticeable in the landscape.”

In his decision, Mr McCormack stated: ‘In my view, different types of development are not necessarily harmful to their surroundings.’

He concluded that ‘while it would not necessarily reflect the prevailing local character or distinctiveness of the settlement, the proposal would preserve both the character and the appearance of the CA and its significance as a designated heritage asset’.

An application for a partial award of costs against the council, based on its delay in dealing with the appeal, was unsuccessful.

The inspector did conclude that the local authority had ‘behaved unreasonably by introducing matters and arguments at such a late stage which contradict its case up to that point’.

However, ‘regardless of when the council raised its concerns about the extant permissions, the applicant would still have had to deal with the issue as part of the appeal.

‘Consequently, it is not clear to me what additional and unnecessary costs have been incurred by the applicant as a result of the council’s behaviour.’

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service