Villagers go on offensive to halt Duke’s housing plan

Lesbury sub-postmistress Carol Southam.
Lesbury sub-postmistress Carol Southam.

A controversial housing scheme has been unanimously rejected by parish councillors, after residents told how the developer had lost their trust

People in Lesbury packed into the village hall on Thursday night to lay bare their discontent with Northumberland Estates’ plan for 20 new homes in the middle of the village.

It would mean demolishing four buildings in the conservation area, including the post office, and replacing them with a mix of modern properties, some of which would be classed as ‘affordable’. A new post office would be built as part of the development, prior to the closure of the existing one.

A special exhibition was held in the hall on May 31, where the Estates – the Duke of Northumberland’s business wing – said it would collate responses before making a formal application to the county council for consideration.

But it emerged that a full planning application had been lodged a week before the consultation took place, sparking fury from householders.

And on Thursday, the parish council session was opened up for them to make their views known.

Postmistress Carol Southam, whose premises are central to the plans, said: “Northumberland Estates has been dishonest. They told us, in our own home, that they would not submit a plan until they had consulted all the tenants.

“That did not happen and still has not happened. I would ask all the parish councillors to search their consciences and ask themselves whether they can support this application as it stands.”

She added: “Objecting to these proposals is not the same as objecting to progress and development in this community.”

Others spoke of their fears over the density of housing proposed for the site, as well as traffic concerns and the loss of key buildings in Lesbury’s historic core.

Les Orange, who has lived in the village for 20 years, said: “The Estates’ development at Townfoot is lovely, but it’s not in the conservation area. If the same materials were used here, it would be a carbuncle.”

Former long-serving county councillor Hugh Philipson “In my opinion, they should renovate the buildings that are already there.”

Parish chairman Tom Wilson said: “I personally will not support this application.”

The plans will now go before the county council for a final decision.