Second deferral for holiday lodges plan at Rothbury

Rothbury Golf Club
Rothbury Golf Club

There is still no decision on a scheme for holiday lodges at Rothbury Golf Club after councillors again deferred the application.

The bid for 11 grass-roofed lodges, near Whitton, was first recommended for approval at the February meeting of Northumberland County Council’s planning committee, but members voted to go on a site visit first.

The site at Rothbury Golf Club that may be built upon.

The site at Rothbury Golf Club that may be built upon.

It was back before the councillors on Tuesday, but they narrowly voted to defer the scheme for a second time in order to seek information about the business case, as the lodges are described as ‘essential to sustain the golf club’.

In planning terms, as the county council’s conservation officer and Historic England said that the scheme would cause ‘less than substantial’ harm to the Whitton conservation area, which borders the site, this has to be balanced against the public benefit.

Much of this public benefit would derive from supporting the viability of the golf club, but there would also be the benefit that the lodges would bring in their own right as tourist accommodation.

Moving deferral, Coun Anne Dale said that she knew golf clubs were struggling and that ‘they are very, very important, not just to those that play there, but as tourist attractions’.

However, she added: “My problem is that I would like to see a business plan.

“I understand people having an idea of harm, but I would like to see this work. I don’t think anyone wants to see a brownfield site that could be built on in that position.”

She was referring to a fear that the golf club could fail anyway once the lodges have been built, but by that point the land would have been developed, in turn meaning future development could be more likely.

Coun John Woodman seconded the motion for deferral, saying: “I was leaning towards support, but I’m concerned about the impact on the area and the problem is that there isn’t a proper economic justification.

“This is potentially a very valuable source of income, but it depends on the agreement between the golf club and the landowner (Northumberland Estates).”

Coun Tony Reid added: “I just want to be assured that if it goes ahead, it’s going to support the club.”

Other members were not in favour of deferring it again, having debated it twice and been on a site visit.

Coun Anthony Murray said: “The golf club has had plenty of time to present a business case.”

The application, which was resubmitted in December after an initial bid for 21 lodges was withdrawn, has sparked almost 90 objections, but 50 letters of support have also been submitted, although opponents at the meeting questioned how valid these were.

Objectors, including the parish councils of Rothbury and Whitton and Tosson, felt that the case for the benefits outweighing the harm had not been made.

Club chairman Brian Arnott highlighted a number of efforts to support the club and bring in new income streams, adding: “Do I have to face an inquiry every time I want to make some money?”

• A bid to build two homes on land south of the Old Smithy in Widdrington, which was due to be decided, was withdrawn by the applicant.