Villagers win battle against grand design

The existing Link House, north of Beadnell.
The existing Link House, north of Beadnell.

A house plan described as a tragedy for the Heritage Coast has been rejected by councillors and its handling by county planners called into question.

The property was intended to replace a former single-storey shepherd’s cottage, Link House near Beadnell, surrounded by farmland and sand dunes.

County planners had worked with the applicant’s agents to help design a building that would dwarf the humble cottage and the result was described as ‘a building with considerable presence’ by planning officer Peter Rutherford.

But scores of villagers who packed Alnwick’s council chamber last Thursday night saw the north area planning committee refuse permission by six votes to one.

Local member Coun Pat Scott said such a controversial application should be tested on appeal.

As chairman of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership, which spans Warkworth to south of Berwick, she said it was the first in the country to have an integrated management plan. The committee should give serious consideration to the very strong letter of objection from the AONB officer.

“What does concern me is that the committee has not had sight of this letter from the AONB until this evening and it is not on the public access system.”

A letter sent at the same time about another application did appear on the system, she said.

“This inconsistency by the planning department is a cause of concern, not only to members of the public but to myself as an elected member.”

Coun Scott said the old cottage was damp and badly insulated but the proposed replacement was a large, intrusive structure unacceptable to the AONB Partnership, Beadnell Parish Council and a lot of the local community.

“This new proposed building would dominate the land and seascape and detract from what is truly iconic – the coastal landscape.”

Parish councillor Christine Williamson said the new house would increase the floor area by 400 per cent and the height by three metres.

“It will tower above the dunes, altering the character of the coastline and the skyline,” she said.

A report to councillors suggested the house would be ‘a beacon of contemporary architecture on the coast’.

Mr Rutherford said: “There is no doubt there are some very strong-built features along the Northumberland coast. It’s contemporary, it will be seen, but I think there are merits to the application.”

Coun Anthony Murray proposed refusal on the grounds the house would damage the county’s portfolio, but was told that was not a planning reason.

Coun Trevor Thorne said: “It’s an exciting design, but I don’t think it’s the right design for this location.”

His motion to refuse was seconded by Coun Robert Arckless.