'It is a hideous design' - councillors reject plans for hotel, service station and homes near Morpeth

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Controversial plans for a new service station, hotel and offices – as well as 150 new homes – near Morpeth have been rejected by county councillors who blasted the scheme’s design.

One councillor said that the plans were “hideous”, while another claimed his nine-year-old granddaughter could have done a better job.

It follows a campaign by residents living near the proposed site west of Lancaster Park, who had argued the plans were not in keeping with local planning policy.

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At Tuesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee, members heard that developers Euro Garages and Persimmon Homes had the benefit of outline permission for the site, which was secured six years ago.

Map showing the location of the planning application site. Picture from Google Maps.Map showing the location of the planning application site. Picture from Google Maps.
Map showing the location of the planning application site. Picture from Google Maps.

However, residents and councillors felt the plans for the service station, hotel and innovation centre were too different from what was originally proposed.

Speaking at the meeting, Morpeth North councillor David Bawn said: “The pub is gone. We’ve gone down to 40 rooms from 60 at the hotel. It is a barely serviced, cheap motorway hotel. That’s a significant reduction in potential jobs.

“The ‘cutting edge innovation centre’, no matter how you slice it, is seven small, bog-standard separate commercial units that could never support more than a handful of jobs at best.

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“This was sold as an extraordinary development bringing hundreds of jobs. What is now coming forward is a depressingly ordinary and dreary development, with only a handful of jobs.”

The council’s director of planning, Rob Murfin, warned members that the differences in the scheme were not enough to base refusal on, but members also took issue with the scheme’s design.

Coun Barry Flux said: “I don’t like the design – in fact I hate it. It looks like the kind of thing you would see on the M1 near Northampton. That’s not far from where I grew up, and I got away from there!

“It is a hideous design.”

Coun Gordon Stewart added: “I have a nine-year-old granddaughter who could design better than this. Northumberland deserves better than this, the people of Morpeth deserve far better.”

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The proposals for the service station, hotel and innovation centre were voted down by 13 votes to one.

The separate application for 150 homes required the approval of the service station to provide an access route and therefore it was decided to refuse permission for that development too.

Mayor of Morpeth Coun Alison Byard also spoke at the meeting and she said afterwards: “Morpeth Town Council consistently objected to this proposed development as against the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan.

“The nub of our objections against the reserved matters application was that surely the greatly reduced commercial element of petrol station, hotel, bar and restaurant next to the bypass and A1 did not require the building of another 150 new houses (albeit with 30 per cent ‘affordable’) to make them viable.

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“It was the promised ‘Innovation Centre’ which allegedly justified the departure from local planning policies and this was reduced to seven box like and unconnected office units that could not possibly be referred to as an ‘Innovation Centre’.

“We are therefore delighted that the Strategic Planning Committee listened to all the objections and refused the Euro Garages application as a scheme of insufficient quality. The separate housing element, which shared the same access, therefore also had to be refused.”