Planning conflict over former Duke’s Middle School site in Northumberland

A conflict between two planning frameworks, which could affect the future of a key site in Alnwick, ‘must be resolved’, an inspector has said.

Monday, 28th October 2019, 3:19 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th November 2019, 12:52 pm

The Alnwick and Denwick Neighbourhood Plan, which came into full force in 2017 after passing referendum, designates the southern half of the former Duke’s Middle School site as ‘local green space’, where ‘development will not be permitted other than in very special circumstances’.

But in the county-wide Northumberland Local Plan, for which the public examination hearings are currently taking place, the northern half of the site is earmarked as a ‘protected open space’, which also severely limits any development taking place.

This issue was raised at the hearing session on October 24 by Guy Munden, of the Northumberland Estates, which has lodged a controversial planning application for a mixed residential development on both ends of the site, with the middle left as open green space.

The former Duke’s school buildings at the northern end of the site. Picture by Ben O’Connell

He said that the local and neighbourhood plans taken together would mean that ‘none of the site is available for development’, contrary to the intentions of the neighbourhood plan.

“We also raised that in the spatial strategy session, where the Local Plan has imposed additional layers on the made neighbourhood plan without any kind of democratic process,” Mr Munden added.

But David English, from Northumberland County Council, said that the site had been identified in the assessment the authority carried out and the northern half ‘is worthy of protection in our opinion’.

He claimed that this was supported by the fact that Sport England had objected to the Estates’ planning application, due to the loss of playing fields.

The Northumberland Estates’ proposals for the redevelopment of the former Duke’s Middle School site in Alnwick.

Mr Munden responded by highlighting policy CF5 of the neighbourhood plan, which says that ‘when Lindisfarne and Duke’s Middle Schools vacate their present sites, the land is allocated for a mix of residential use, community education, open space and recreational uses’.

Mr English, meanwhile, pointed out that the site is not allocated for housing on the policies map of the neighbourhood plan.

Planning inspector Susan Heywood said: “The council needs to investigate how that conflict can be resolved. The Local Plan should not be trying to seek less development than the neighbourhood plan.

“The council needs to resolve that or provide justification as to why the Local Plan should override the neighbourhood plan.”