Northumberland coast holiday park approved after councillors reject planners' refusal recommendation and back jobs and business boost instead

Councillors have backed plans for a new holiday park on the Northumberland coast, dismissing landscape concerns in favour of the economic benefits.

Friday, 16th October 2020, 12:12 pm

The application for a site with 102 pitches plus a reception, shop and facilities building on farmland to the south of Newbiggin and north of the existing Sandy Bay Caravan Park, had been recommended for refusal by planning officers.

They said that the development would ‘compromise the open landscape character of the site’ and this harm would outweigh the economic benefits of the scheme.

However, given this area is one of the most deprived in the North East, a majority of the members of the Ashington and Blyth Local Area Council disagreed and supported the bid at their meeting on Wednesday, October 14.

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The beach at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea

Their view was in line with that of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Town Council, the town’s development trust and almost 100 residents, who all supported the proposal.

The site, which is currently in use as arable land as part of the applicant’s (Mr M Clippingdale) farming enterprise, borders the site of the Links Quarry scheme.

It also borders Park Dean Resorts’ Sandy Bay to the south.

The site of the proposed new caravan park to the south of Newbiggin. Picture from Google Maps

The town council’s written submission to the meeting stated that the ‘weight of economic benefit to our community is incredibly significant’ and ‘should considerably outweigh the minimal impact on visual amenity or landscape’.

Agents George F White highlighted the applicant’s view that ‘the significant economic and social benefits outweigh localised harm to the environment’.

An economic assessment in support of the bid suggested that the £8.5million investment would lead to £4.15million of visitor spending a year, which would support 15 full-time equivalent new jobs on the site and a further 17 off-site.

The planning officer’s report said that while ‘officers generally concur with the evidence’ in this assessment, the £4.15million figure ‘is considered to be on the optimistic side, as it is based on an average occupancy of six persons per caravan which is considered to be high’.

The full resolution was that the committee was minded to approve the application subject to delegation to the director of planning to secure appropriate conditions and mitigation to minimise the landscape harm. If agreement cannot be reached, the scheme will be brought back to the local area council.

This was approved by 11 votes to one, with one abstention, after Cllr Jeff Reid originally proposed refusal in line with the officer’s recommendation, but this was not seconded.

He explained that he did not wish to go against the careful assessment of the council’s planning officers, who concluded the development ‘would result in significant landscape and visual harm’ to the area.

But Cllr Jeff Gobin said: “I think the officers are wrong on this one, they can be wrong just as much as we can. How often do we get the public behind us like this?”

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