Housing bid in Lesbury refused for Duke of Northumberland’s business venture

Northumberland Estates' third bid for housing at Lesbury has been refused by county councillors

The 12th Duke of Northumberland Ralph Percy
The 12th Duke of Northumberland Ralph Percy

The Duke of Northumberland’s business venture’s third bid for new housing in a county village has been thrown out amid claims it fails to respond to the “historic grain” of the settlement.

Northumberland Estates bid for eight homes at Lesbury, near Alnwick, was refused by Northumberland County Council amid the criticism from the authority’s conservation officer.

It follows rejection and withdrawal of earlier bids but the organisation has hit back, saying such decisions risk creating “dying communities,” and said it may appeal.

The venture was seeking full planning permission for properties on land between Down House and Old School House, at Riverside.

The bid followed the 2012 withdrawal of an initial scheme which sought to demolish homes and the village post office, replacing them with 20 homes and a new post office and convenience store.

A revised scheme for demolition of an existing outbuilding and construction of eight homes, was then submitted, but county councillors voted to refuse last year.

The latest application was then submitted, which no longer involved demolition of the outbuilding and sought a different access. It proposed three of the units be affordable.

Twenty four letters of objection were lodged with the county council.

The council’s conservation officer also objected based on the “harm to the character and appearance” of the Lesbury Conservation Area, “primarily with regard to the failure of the scheme to respond to historic grain of the settlement.”

The official’s objection claims “the siting of the eight houses entirely fails to respect the grain of” burgage plots which make up the site and which are said to date to 1624.

It adds: “The proposal cuts right across the plots, destroying all that remains of their form. This tight arrangement of buildings placed very close together would be more suitable for a street frontage, where it might be desirable to present a strong building line.

“However, in a backland area such as this, a much looser grain would be expected, with much more planting and green space preserved.

“The proposal is thus completely unacceptable, in removing the last vestiges of a historic layout that is part of the medieval history of Lesbury.”

Planning officers recommended the scheme be approved, but the council’s North area planning committee has now voted against that advice.

Colin Barnes, head of planning and development at the estates, said: “We were disappointed that the council went against the recommendation of the officers who suggested that the application should be approved, especially as we have done a lot of work to overcome the concerns previously expressed.

“As well as those who objected, we are equally aware that there are many others in the village, including the local parish council who understand the need for new housing.

“In this case the proposed scheme is fairly small and would have provided both affordable housing and some smaller bungalows suitable for residents wishing to downsize.

“One of the greatest challenges facing our rural areas is to maintain viable communities and to support the limited services and facilities which still exist.

“Housing is an essential part of that.

“If we want dying communities mixed with holiday homes and only elderly residents then by all means pull up the draw-bridge, but don’t complain when the village post office or the local bus service are no longer.”

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