Housing bid for former school site back for a second try

The former Milfield County First School site.
The former Milfield County First School site.

A bid to build 30 new homes on a former north Northumberland school site, previously described as a ‘very raw deal’ for the village, is back before councillors for a decision next week.

A resubmitted application for the former county first school site in Milfield, north of Wooler on the A697, is again recommended for approval when it goes before the North Northumberland Local Area Council for a decision on Tuesday (May 21).

The school has not been in use since 2009 and the ‘closed and overgrown’ site, off Wheatriggs, is to be sold to the applicant, Gleeson Homes, by the county council.

Planning officers had recommended approval at last September’s meeting, but a majority of the committee agreed with Coun Robbie Moore, who said that the loss of open green space, ie, the former playing fields, meant the development was not sustainable in social or environmental terms.

Both proposals have sparked objections from Sport England over the loss of the playing fields, but the planners’ view remains that it is not reasonable to withhold permission on these grounds given the fields have not been in use since the school closed and the likelihood is that they would remain redundant.

In an attempt to overcome councillors’ concerns though, the developer has now agreed to give the parish council £30,000 towards the installation of a multi-use games area (MUGA) on the playing field to the south of the Wheatriggs Estate.

As with the previous bid, this application, submitted before Christmas, seeks to demolish the school buildings and construct a mix of two, three and four-bedroom homes on the site.

A minor change would see one of the proposed four-beds replaced by a three-bed, so the scheme would feature nine two-bedroom, semi-detached properties, 19 three-bedroom houses (nine of which would be detached), and two four-bedroom detached dwellings.

Permission is also sought to close up the existing access and form a new entrance, opposite the existing Wheatriggs Terrace junction.

No affordable homes would be provided as it is claimed the scheme would not be viable, but, if approved, the developer would have to provide contributions of £52,800 for education, due to Wooler First School being at near capacity, and £17,400 for healthcare.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service