Morpeth 'under siege' from developers hoping to build 850 new homes

A public inquiry has begun into plans for 400 new homes at Morpeth - on the back of approval granted for another 450

Residents Alison Byard and Phil Ashmore who are opposed to plans to build 400 houses on land near their homes in Hepscott, Northumberland.
Alison Byard and Phil Ashmore who are opposed to plans to build 400 houses on land near their homes in Hepscott, Northumberland.

A public inquiry has begun into plans for 400 homes in a Northumberland market town, on the back of approval of another 450.

A government planning inspector will kick off the inquiry into proposals to build 396 homes on land between Morpeth and Hepscott.

The hearing, which began on Tuesday, comes just days after another inspector allowed a different developer to build up to 200 homes elsewhere in the town, and following permission from county councillors for another 255 on a third site.

Local councillors voiced concerns over the prospect of up to 850 homes being built on the three sites, with potentially more to come elsewhere in Morpeth, amid fears the town could become a “dormitory” for Newcastle and that its infrastructure would struggle to cope.

The inquiry is into Tees Valley Housing and Barratt David Wilson Homes’ application for land east of Stobhill roundabout at Hepscott.

Objections came in from 522 residents, alongside a petition of 445 signatures from the Morpeth Action Group, which itself objected.

Morpeth Town and Hepscott Parish Councils also objected along with highways officers.

Objections were also received from the South Morpeth Coalition, Morpeth Civic Society, Persimmon Homes, the ward member for Morpeth Stobhill, and the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan Preparation Group.

The development partners appealed to the planning inspectorate on the grounds of non-determination, with Northumberland County Council having failed to make a decision within a 13-week target.

The authority subsequently agreed to oppose the scheme at the inquiry.

The hearing comes hot on the heels of a decision by a different planning inspector to allow two appeals by Barratt, following Northumberland County Council’s refusal of its bids for homes at Loansdean and a joint inquiry in March.

The company’s original application was for 200 dwellings at the site, with a revised bid for 186.

Last week, county councillors voted to give Persimmon outline permission to build 255 homes on land South West Of Northgate Hospital.

Ahead of the Bellway inquiry, local residents said they were concerned about the number of homes which could be built at the three sites.

Alison Byard, of the Morpeth council and the Hepscott and Morpeth together group which is to take part in the hearing, said she was aware of plans for residential development of other town sites, including the county council’s County Hall base.

She said: “We feel that our town is more and more under siege from developers. They are springing up all over Morpeth.”

Coun Byard claimed the town needed jobs in addition to homes otherwise it risks becoming a “dormitory” for Newcastle.

Phil Ashmore, of the Hepscott council and the Hepscott and Morpeth group, questioned how the town’s infrastructure - particularly its roads, services and sewers - would cope with so many new homes.

“It is pretty catastrophic from a Morpeth point of view.”

Bellway declined to comment.

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