CAMPAIGNERS in a market town are preparing for the second phase of their battle to protect a cherished “green lung” from being lost to a controversial housing development.
Last month people in Morpeth, Northumberland, were delighted after county councillors rejected the bid to build a three-storey block of 51 apartments for older people on a site known locally as the Headmaster’s Lawn. The field, part of the grounds of King Edward VI School on Cottingwood Lane, is said by locals to be one of the few remaining untouched green spaces in the town.
Planning committee members voted 5-3 to refuse planning permission for the apartments, after the council received more than 100 letters of objection and a 420-name protest petition.
Now applicant McCarthy and Stone has appealed against the decision to the Planning Inspectorate, and a local hearing will be held next year before a planning inspector rules on whether the project can go ahead.
Locals who oppose the development said they were disappointed but not surprised that the company is to challenge the decision, which was taken against the advice of the council’s professional planning officers.
Town councillor Les Cassie, who is the coordinator of the Cottingwood Lane Residents’ Action Group, said: “We are obviously very disappointed that they have decided to appeal.
“We will be seeking to take part in the appeal hearing and will do everything we can to make sure that the council’s decision is upheld.”
Henry Warne, chairman of Morpeth Civic Society, which also objected to the scheme, said: “It does not surprise me that they are appealing.
“They have every right to do so, because they have obviously put a lot of time and effort into the application, but we also have every right to oppose it.
“We would very much like to see the committee’s decision re-affirmed on appeal.
“As far as we are concerned the apartment block is over-sized and the plot is being over-developed. It is a huge building, and we would also be very sorry to see this land lost as an open space.”
Opponents of the scheme claim the block of flats would be too big, overbearing and spoil the character of the neighbourhood. They also argue it would worsen existing traffic congestion and problems on Cottingwood Lane, and say the location is unsuitable for elderly people as it is too far from the town centre and up a steep hill.
No-one at McCarthy and Stone was available to comment on the appeal yesterday.
Last month regional manager, Steve Secker, expressed his disappointment at the refusal of planning permission. He said the scheme had been specifically designed for people later in life, and would address an identified housing need in Morpeth.