Permanent occupancy and increased affordable homes as part of controversial bids

Housing for local people is now a key strand of contentious plans for a total of 101 new homes in north Northumberland.

Tuesday, 7th May 2019, 4:50 pm
Northumberland Estates plans include 60 houses in area 1, near the station, and 41 homes to the north of Lesbury (area 2).

Last November, the Northumberland Estates revealed two new proposals, one for up to 60 homes near Alnmouth Station, in Hipsburn, and the other for around 40 homes to the north of Lesbury.

An outline planning application for the Hipsburn scheme, featuring an extra car park and bus terminal/stop for the station, and another for around 41 homes on a site to be accessed from the B1339 Longhoughton Road, were lodged over Christmas, with both attracting dozens of objections so far.

An artists impression of homes planned for Lesbury by Northumberland Estates.

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Now, it has been confirmed that the company, which represents the Duke of Northumberland’s business interests, is proposing that the development near the railway station would provide 20 per cent affordable housing, in line with the county council’s requirements, but also half of the properties for sale on the open market would be restricted to permanent residents only.

Meanwhile, the Lesbury development would be 50 per cent affordable housing, which, by definition, is for permanent occupancy and is allocated based on need, with some priority given to local people.

Guy Munden, development planner with the Northumberland Estates, said: “The idea behind the permanent-occupancy restriction is to ensure the housing meets actual need in the area which is desperate for more permanent residents – Alnmouth is currently 50 per cent second homes.

“This will help to sustain local services into the future – notably Hipsburn Primary School.

“As with other areas along the coast, the pressure of second homes is eroding local communities and we feel this is a good way to make sure the area doesn’t lose its facilities and its services as well as its character.”

These changes have been made following discussions with the county council’s planning department as part of the process to assess the applications, but previous amendments have done little to change the view of opponents.

In February, we reported that details for a new roundabout at the junction of the A1068 Lesbury Road and Curly Lane had been put forward, while the site layout for the Hipsburn proposal had also been amended in response to concerns – with neither proving popular.

Referring to the roundabout, one resident of Hillside wrote: ‘The scale of this planned eyesore is not within keeping of a small rural village, but more akin to what you might find in some faceless urban sprawl on the outskirts of a city.’

Another added: ‘The ‘amended’ site plan raises serious concerns for Hillside residents. Where have all the tree breaks and screening gone?’

When it announced the schemes last year, the Estates conceded that the area’s neighbourhood plan, whose final draft has been out for consultation with the community, does not include these two sites for development.

However, it said it is promoting them as important for the long-term future and benefit of the parish of Lesbury and for north Northumberland in general, given the importance of the station.

In response to objections from Lesbury Parish Council, which highlight the many conflicts with the emerging neighbourhood plan that has been worked on over many months, the developer submitted lengthy and detailed rebuttals.

Nonetheless, objections continue to be lodged against both applications, with almost 150 submitted so far across both schemes.

These proposals followed on from a pre-application inquiry to develop a 28-hectare site to the north of Lesbury to include around 150 homes, revealed last August.

That wider vision also mooted a bypass road between the A1068 and B1339, taking heavy traffic out of the village centre, but ‘after much discussion with Northumberland County Council and Lesbury Parish Council’, the scale of the development was revised.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service