Plans rejected for 167 homes in Widdrington Station after concern from Northumberland councillors

Plans for up to 167 new homes, which would have expanded Widdrington Station by 14.5% and the wider parish by 13%, have been rejected.

Wednesday, 2nd October 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Sunday, 13th October 2019, 8:35 pm
Stock picture from PA

The outline application, for a site on the south-western edge of the village, was unanimously refused at a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee on October 1.

This was in line with the recommendation of planning officers who believed the development, south of Grange Court with access from Grange Road, would ‘give rise to the encroachment of built development into the open countryside’.

This is because the site is outside the settlement boundary and would result in ‘significantly harmful localised landscape effects and visual effects upon nearby residents and road/footpath users’, according to the report to councillors.

Additional reasons for the refusal were that comprehensive archaeological trial trenching has not been carried out and that a section 106 legal agreement to secure developer contributions has not been completed, although the applicant had agreed in principle to what was requested.

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Agent James Cullingford, on behalf of applicant Harworth Estates – the property company which was originally an arm of UK Coal, said that the settlement boundary was either from the out-of-date Castle Morpeth Borough Local Plan or the emerging Northumberland Local Plan, which has yet to go through public examination, meaning that both carry little weight and therefore the national planning rulebook (NPPF) should be the guide for the decision, with its presumption in favour of sustainable development.

He also claimed that the archaeological objection from the council is inconsistent with the NPPF and that the trial trenching being requested could be a condition of the outline approval.

But the council’s director of planning, Rob Murfin, said that there is no need to build on sites such as this, as the county can demonstrate a five-year housing land supply, has thousands of homes with planning permission and its build-out rate is 230% of the Government requirement.

In this particular area, a site further north on Grange Road has outline permission for 121 homes, with detailed plans for a total of 179 properties submitted at the start of the year, while the committee last month gave the nod to some changes which would still see 104 houses built on the former brickworks site at Stobswood.

Referring to the site visit, Coun Rupert Gibson, who seconded the motion to refuse, said: “It was interesting to see how out of the village it was. That’s why I asked about the settlement boundary.

“With the other two sites, I don’t think Widdrington Station really needs any more homes.”