Work to start on 160 homes in Northumberland village after plans approved despite concerns

Plans for 160 new homes in a Northumberland village have been given the green light.

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 2:27 pm
Updated Sunday, 9th February 2020, 3:01 am
The railway crossing in Widdrington Station. Picture by Jane Coltman.

The application for two, three and four-bedroom houses in Widdrington Station was supported by 15 votes to zero, with one abstention, at Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee meeting.

The scheme by Gleeson Homes, on a 5.6-hectare site west of Grange Road and south of Grangemoor Road and which includes the diversion of an existing public footpath to an alternative route, had been recommended for approval.

However, it had sparked concerns from residents, the parish council and the ward member, Coun Scott Dickinson, partly because the community had backed the previous scheme, but this application is ‘very different’, with extra houses and no bungalows.

Planning officers told councillors that the outline application simply established the principle of development on the site, with any layout at that stage being indicative.

Bordered by homes to the north and east, with Grange View First School and the village’s community centre to the south, the land receive outline consent for up to 121 homes in February 2017.

This full application was for 179 homes when first lodged back in January last year, but it has subsequently been reduced to 160 to allow for more green space through the site, mainly along the new route of the public footpath.

A total of 27 of the properties would be affordable (17%) – 16 for sale at discount market value and 11 as a form of affordable rented accommodation. Members heard that no registered provider wanted to take on rental properties due to ‘low demand’ in the area.

Objector Jacqui Bexfield claimed there would be an adverse effect on residential amenity in terms of overlooking and loss of privacy, as well as raising concerns about road safety and congestion.

Gleeson’s James Johnson emphasised the affordability of the houses it sells and its goal to provide ‘low-cost home ownership’. He said that the development represented a £13.6million investment by the company, with around a third likely to be spent on wages for local workers.

The committee spent more than an hour discussing the proposals, asking questions covering the increase in the number of properties, the lack of bungalows, the phasing and length of build, pedestrian safety, affordable housing and consultation.

While the eventual support was almost unanimous, there remained concerns among the councillors.

Coun Rupert Gibson said: “It’s a shame that what was discussed during the consultation (on the outline scheme) has just been ignored, from what I’m gathering.”

Coun Malcolm Robinson said: “I think I’m for this application now, because I support the ethos of the company.”

But Coun Gordon Stewart called for Gleeson to ‘pull its finger out’ and resolve the situation where the privacy distance had been breached by about a metre.

Planning permission is subject to a section 106 legal agreement to secure £99,000 for education, £99,000 for healthcare, a £23,400 ecological contribution for the council’s coastal mitigation scheme, £70,000 for the village community centre, including a new car park, as well as the affordable housing.