CAMPAIGNERS have told of their disappointment after a council withdrew from a fight to stop 450 homes being built on green land at the 11th hour.
Hundreds of residents, including members of the Holystone Action Group, are objecting to plans to construct the new houses at Scaffold Hill Farm, on Whitley Road, in Benton, North Tyneside.
The scheme, by Northumberland Estates, also includes a doctor’s surgery, 101 allotments, retail space, play areas, a 100-acre extension to the Rising Sun Country Park, improvements to the infrastructure, extended footpaths and cycle routes.
The business says the project would help to meet the need for new housing in the borough and would bring ecological and environmental benefits.
But protesters say the development would have a major effect on a wildlife corridor and result in loss of open space. They also feel traffic levels would be significantly increased.
In August last year, the proposals were rejected by a North Tyneside Council planning committee on the grounds of adverse impact on the character of the area and severe impact on traffic.
Northumberland Estates then lodged an appeal against the authority’s decision and a public inquiry began yesterday, led by a Government inspector.
However, two hours into the hearing, the council dramatically withdrew from the inquiry after it emerged that a technical error had been made while assessing traffic flows in the area.
Giles Cannock, representing the council, said the predicted queue lengths at the A19 junction had been overestimated. After a recalculation, it was judged the impact on traffic would not be as severe as previously predicted.
In light of the changes, the council reconsidered the planning application again and decided, that on balance, the adverse impact on open space and the character of the area did not outweigh the benefits of the proposed development.
Mr Cannock added: “The local authority has decided that planning permission should be granted, subject to conditions. We are withdrawing our reasons for refusal.”
The Holystone Action Group said they were disappointed with the decision.
Keith Page, 55, a spokesman for the group, said: “We are very unhappy with the outcome. Some people at the council have let us, residents of this borough, down.
“We are disappointed that the council did not put up any kind of a fight. This weakens the ability of the planning inspector to come down on our side.
“We strongly believe this development would have a negative effect on the wildlife corridor and on the levels of traffic in an area already at capacity.”
A council spokesman said: “The council was proposing to present a case supporting the reason for refusal on three reasons – highway impact, visual impact and loss of existing open space.
“The advice received was that the evidence was not enough to satisfy the tests in the national planning policy framework.
“To have continued beyond this point would have put the council at risk of external costs being awarded against them.
“Residents opposing the development have produced evidence in support of their case and will have the opportunity to present this to the inspector who is hearing the appeal.”