Persimmon versus Banks Group in green belt homes battle

Developers fight over site to the West of Brunton lane during Newcastle and Gateshead planning inquiry

Newcastle Great Park
Newcastle Great Park

Two of the North East’s biggest property developers have gone head to head in a multi-million pound battle over the fate of 1,000 green belt homes.

Newcastle Great Park developer Persimmon has told rival firm Banks Group that it will not let it add to traffic concerns with new homes on land near Newcastle Airport.

Persimmon said that it could not stand by and watch as Banks risked undermining the expansion of it Great Park development, a location the firm says it has already put £1bn into over the last 17 years.

The Banks Group says Persimmon must stand by what it says is a legally binding agreement made several years ago with Newcastle Council to build extra facilities including a £30m road which, if built east to west on land near Brunton Lane in Newcastle, would free up a new site for Banks to build as many as 1,000 new homes.

In what were sometimes confrontational exchanges at the end stage of the Newcastle and Gateshead joint planning inquiry, the Banks Group yesterday accused Persimmon of deliberately putting in a late bid for 500 extra homes in addition to the nearly 1,500 homes it is expecting to be allowed to build on Great Park land.

Planning inspector Martin Pike was told by the Banks Group’s Justin Hancock that the latest submission was “a ruse” designed to prevent the inspector agreeing the need for homes on land now owned by Banks.

Mr Hancock laid into Persimmon’s record of house building on Great Park, with documents submitted to the inspector showing that over more than a decade just over half of the 2,932 homes with planning permission had been built.

This, Mr Hancock said, demonstrated what happened when one developer had “a monopoly” on a site, adding that allowing Banks to build on green belt land to the west of Brunton Lane would bring in choice.

Mr Hancock said Persimmon had previously support plans for expansion on the western edge of Great Park, including the need to build access roads into the rest of the site, “but now they oppose both because they are not the developer that they assumed they would be.”

Banks said there had always been a legal agreement that Persimmon, in exchange for planning permission, would contribute to the cost of a road east to west, which Banks said meets the overall aim of eventually having a road linking up the Airport to the A1 and the A696.

Peter Jordan, divisional land and planning director for Persimmon, said that in 17 years of working on Great Park he had never heard from the Banks group in relation to the site.

The homes boss said that as far as he was concerned he had “a right and responsibility to ensure the free flowing of traffic through Great Park,” something he said could not be guaranteed if Banks built new homes.

Mr Pike reminded Persimmon that it had in September submitted evidence which supported building on the controversial site, at a time when Banks was not yet the developer.

Mr Jordan said: “We had been in talks with the land owners, as we have been for many years, and the idea was this would have come online later with a transport strategy that worked.

“Unfortunately, these land owners have been advised, in my opinion badly, and instead want to bring this forward now.”

After Mr Pike asked why the Great Park could not now cope with the extra homes if that was always the plan before Banks group stepped in, Mr Jordan said: “We have tried for years to get the land owners to work with us but commercial changes happen. They have chosen Banks and they are not prepared to do this with us.”

Mr Pike was told by Persimmon that for the Newcastle and Gateshead homes plan to be passed it had to be based on “what is deliverable”.

Mr Jordan added: “We are delivering on Great Park. What I can’t do and will not do is allow a huge conurbation that comes through my infrastructure, reduces deliverability of the rest of the site and reduces the number of homes that can be built here. It is just not going to happen.”

At one point Mr Pike had to request Newcastle Council provide the original planning permission agreements which set out where and how a new road would be built, a document the council had not brought to the meeting.

After it emerged the council had also not sought a legal opinion on these documents, Mr Pike indicated he may have to reconvene the planning inquiry, due to end on Friday, in order to hear further evidence over the nature of the road and associated housing.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer