Northumberland County Council refuses its own housebuilders' plans as Bedlingtonshire Golf Club proposals rejected

Plans for an overhaul of a Northumberland golf club have been rejected, despite the council’s company being lined up to build almost 50 new homes.

Saturday, 21st November 2020, 9:51 am
Northumberland County Council's County Hall at Morpeth.

Members of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee unanimously refused the proposal for 49 houses on the current driving range site at Bedlingtonshire Golf Club at a meeting on Tuesday, November 17, in line with the officer’s recommendation.

The application, which was lodged last October, included the creation of a new 24-bay, flood-lit, all-weather driving range and visitor facility to create a centre of excellence as well as a refurbishment and extension to the clubhouse, with a new community function room to be created.

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This would fund the rest of the scheme, which is required as the club ‘is faced with a serious health and safety risk’, ‘as a result of a housing development beyond the boundary of the current driving range’.

A planning statement submitted with the plans said that despite restrictions, ‘the risk of golf balls encroaching onto properties has not been eradicated with two incidents of property damage recently and frequent reports of balls in gardens’, meaning the current range ‘is no longer fit for purpose’.

A submission by the club read out at the meeting added: “The proposed development will enable the club to invest in its long-term sustainability, which has become an even greater concern given Covid-19 and the recent announcement of further lockdown measures.

“Significant investment is required to relocate the driving range and provide community facilities that can provide an ongoing income stream for the club.

“Private-sector funding is the only way of guaranteeing delivery of these projects. The only realistic opportunity to deliver the proposed improvements is from the capital receipt from the proposed housing development, as happened at Blyth Golf Club.”

However, councillors backed the 11 reasons for refusal which had been set out in the report by planning officers.

Cllr Rupert Gibson said: “In certain ways, it seems slightly hard lines on the golf club, but in other ways, you read through the list of reasons why it should be refused and I don’t think they have tried very hard.

“There’s five things there at least that should have been done before this application ever got in and well before it got here.

“There’s a lot of things that need to be done before we can think about passing it. It’s a pity because it would be quite nice to do it, but not today.”

Referring to the planners’ view that ‘the residential development ‘would represent unnecessary and unjustified development in the open countryside outside of the defined settlement boundary’, Cllr Les Bowman noted: “That is the crux of it and the main reason why we are objecting to this.”

Cllr Trevor Thorne, who moved refusal, added that the planning officer had ‘made the case and it’s a very strong one, there are an awful lot of points why this application should not go ahead’.

The plans had originally been due to be decided at the Tuesday, November 3, meeting, but were deferred for ‘technical reasons’.

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