Hundreds of executive homes can be built on previously ‘safeguarded’ land after a lapse in council planning.
In the latest instalment of the debacle centring on the major housing scheme in North Tyneside, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has granted planning permission for 366 homes on land at Whitehouse Farm, West Moor, after an appeal by developers Bellway.
The move comes as a blow to the 1,000-plus protesters who’d previously been victorious in saving the vast green space from development having seen the authority’s planning committee go against the recommendation of officers and refuse the controversial application. Along with concerns about the impact on biodiversity of wildlife, the committee said “the proposal would result in the loss of designated Safeguarded Land” as set out in the council’s Unitary Development Plan 2002.
Appealed by developers Bellway, the decision went to a public inquiry last October with the planning inspector recommending the appeal be upheld despite the vocal opposition and protests of local residents.
Minded to agree with the inspector, Mr Pickles received further comments from Bellway, West Moor Residents’ Association and North Tyneside Council over the summer before his latest decision announcing he allows Bellway’s appeal and “grants planning permission for an executive scheme of 366 dwellings incorporating landscaping, wildlife corridors, open space, access and highways.”
Although deemed as safeguarded land locally, Mr Pickles previously said the fact “the council’s unitary development plan was six years beyond its end date,..can all be seen as arguments in favour of allowing development now on safeguarded land.”
The decision raises concerns for other authorities in the region hoping to protect green space, fenced as ‘safeguarded’ land in out-of-date plans, from development.
Having protested and marched in their attempts to save the site the West Moor Residents’ Association is now reviewing the decision and considering an appeal.
Association member Nick Price said: “We are clearly overall disappointed because, not with standing the government’s intention for sustainable housing developments and concerns about the environment and preservation of wildlife the Secretary of State has decided to go ahead and grant permission in principle for this scheme. Our preference would continue to be development on brownfield sites thereby meeting the need for housing in the area in a sustainable way. There are a number of conditions the Secretary of State has applied to this development before any housing work can start and we will be wanting to make sure these are fully met by the local authority and the developer.
“He has also set out the grounds for further appeal, and at the moment we are studying the decision bearing in mind his clear guidelines for further appeals. This has been a rigorous process looking at the benefits and negatives of this application over two and a half years. A number of conditions will need to be met which is important but overall the fact the government has decided to go ahead with this appeal must be of concern for similar greenfield sites in the region.”
It’s thought the major development would be built over 10 to 12 years.
North Tyneside Council was unavailable for comment.