CALLS for a disused railway line in Northumberland to be protected from housing development because of its potential as a future transport link have been rejected by a Government planning inspector.
Five months ago county councillors rejected a scheme to build 44 houses and apartments on land at Malvins Road in Blyth – which involves infilling a railway cutting on the former coal line which once served the town’s Bates Colliery.
There were more than 60 objections to the bid, many on the grounds that building would prevent the old mineral line from ever being re-opened and used, if necessary, to service a planned biomass power station at the former colliery site.
County councillors went against the advice of their planning officers in rejecting the bid by UK Coal subsidiary Harworth Estates for 26 houses and 18 apartments.
The company appealed against the decision and a Government planning inspector has now ruled that the council’s reason for refusing permission – that the scheme is premature – was ‘very weak’.
He says the land is not allocated in any development plans for use as a transport corridor, and the proposals for a biomass power plant at Bates Colliery are very vague and not necessarily dependent on a rail link.
The Inspector adds there are ‘no realistic prospects’ of the disused line being used as an extension to the Ashington Blyth and Tyne freight line, if it ever re-opens to passenger trains.
However, he has dismissed the appeal by Harworth Estates on the grounds that its proposals don’t, at this stage, make appropriate provision for affordable housing, open space and sport and recreational facilities. A report to county councillors by principal planning officer John Dowsett says the company’s appeal has failed ‘on a technicality’ which is capable of being rectified. “0fficers consider it is likely that a further application will be submitted in due course which addresses the points identified by the inspector,” he adds.
Yesterday Harworth Estates spokesman, Stuart Oliver, said: “We are pleased that on the core issue of the railway line the planning inspector has ruled in our favour.
“We are currently working on proposals that will address the issues outlined by the inspector in relation to affordable homes, open space and recreation facilities. We hope to submit a revised planning application to the council before Christmas.”
Local residents opposed to the housing scheme also raised issues such as noise, security, increased traffic, loss of trees and the integration of the current road bridges.