Ponteland affordable homes and bungalows proposal rejected by council planners over green belt concerns
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The planned site for the development was a section of greenfield, green belt land on the southwestern edge of Darras Hall, and planners decided the homes would adversely impact the character of the open countryside.
The Esh Group development of ‘affordable’ homes, proposed for a site off Western Way, wanted to build 23 three-bed, 27 two-bed, and five one-bed properties, some of which would be bungalows.
90 people had objected to the plans and Ponteland Town Council had objected as a consultee.
The town council disagreed that there was local need for the housing and, in addition to being green belt, felt the site was not within walking distance of local services or well connected to public transport, and would have a “severe impact” on local traffic.
County council planning officers agreed, stating in their report: “The site is not an accessible location in terms of access to local services by a choice of means of transport, particularly when the scheme proposes 100% affordable housing where it is to be expected that car ownership would be lower.”
A “major incursion” onto green belt land was also a big concern for planners.
The report said: “The proposal would create an imposing urban form of development that would erode the qualities of this attractive landscape and have a detrimental impact upon the rural character and appearance of the site and setting of this particular part of the open countryside.
“Furthermore, the siting of the properties with the associated paraphernalia would increase the perceived urbanisation of this area.
“It would also fail to make a positive contribution or respect the local character of Darras Hall as the proposed building heights, scale and density would not integrate with the existing built form.”
The developer had argued the need for affordable housing in Ponteland and the lack of alternative sites for an affordable housing scheme justified developing green belt land.
However, council planners said: “The unmet need for affordable homes does not justify very special circumstances for permitting otherwise inappropriate development on greenfield land in the green belt.”
Insufficient information about biodiversity, drainage, and the future of the site’s trees, were also cited as factors in rejecting the planning application.
The council report also noted the speed limit near the site was higher than Esh Group had designed the site access for and the highway design within the scheme was “not acceptable.”
Esh’s land and partnerships director Laura Devaney said: “We submitted the planning application in 2021 on the basis that the development would help alleviate a shortage of affordable homes in the area, which was identified through a housing needs survey and public consultation as part of the planning process.
“The property tenures that the scheme would have delivered included shared ownership and discounted market sale in order to help local people get onto the property ladder in difficult economic times.
“We also received supportive feedback during the consultation process from local residents that expressed a wish to downsize from larger accommodation and remain in the area close to family.
“It is disappointing to learn of the decision.”