Huge salt dome approved for Otterburn to help keep Northumberland's roads moving

A new salt barn is to be built in a Northumberland village after the 45-foot-high dome was given the go-ahead by councillors.
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The local authority’s own bid, to replace its existing, open, road-salt storage bay at its highways depot in Otterburn, was approved by 15 votes to one at the Tuesday, July 7, meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee.

It had been recommended for approval with the planning officer’s report stating that ‘when balanced against the requirements of the building, which ultimately dictates its size, and when taking into account the amendments to the scheme, the harm is not considered to be significant enough to justify refusal of the application’.

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A previous bid for a rectangular building – with a slighter lower height but a larger footprint – had been withdrawn to ensure the structure was further away from the site boundaries and the houses. Other mitigation includes the dome being green and tree-planting around the site.

Northumberland County Council’s new salt barn in Blyth, which is of a comparable height to the one planned for OtterburnNorthumberland County Council’s new salt barn in Blyth, which is of a comparable height to the one planned for Otterburn
Northumberland County Council’s new salt barn in Blyth, which is of a comparable height to the one planned for Otterburn

They said that alternative sites haven’t been investigated or considered properly and that the planning officer has drawn ‘faulty conclusions’ for the recommendation of approval.

Coun John Riddle, the local ward member, also spoke against the scheme, saying that while he fully understands the need to store road salt, he also believes that sites away from villages should be used. “I think the scale is unacceptable in that location”, he added.

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However, the submission from the applicant, the council’s highways team, outlined that other options have been considered but not found to be suitable, with Otterburn’s location key for access to the A696 and A68.

The Forestry Commission and Ministry of Defence were also contacted for possible sites on their land, with no success.

In response to questions from councillors, the committee was reminded that it had to deal with the application in question and not whether the structure could be a different shape, size or in a different location.

Director of planning Rob Murfin said there is no need for a ‘sequential test’ to prove this site is the most suitable, as is the case with out-of-town retail developments, although in this case the information from the applicant has included consideration of other sites.

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Coun Allan Hepple said there were a lot of ‘red herrings’ in this case, with the main issue being the height, adding: “I’m confident that the changes will make the harm, if there’s harm, more limited.”

Coun Rupert Gibson noted: “It’s been an industrial estate for a long time and there’s been residential creep.”

However, Coun Malcolm Robinson said: “I don’t think we have put enough thought into the design of the building to consider all of the problems that are going to ensue.”

But Coun Jeff Reid said: “This has to be somewhere. I have total sympathy with people who have bought into living in the beautiful Northumberland countryside.

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“If I could think of an objection, I would be banging on the table, but it will not be as bad as people think it’s going to be.”

Coun Colin Horncastle, who moved approval, added: “If you put it in a green field, it would look even more outlandish.”

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