THE Duke of Northumberland's controversial £28m redevelopment of Prudhoe town centre was finally given the go-ahead last night – after a five-year planning battle.
Northumberland County Council’s West Area Planning Committee gave unanimous approval for the plans which will revolutionise the face of the town.
New retail, housing, office and supermarket developments will bring 400 jobs to the town – but objectors are unhappy at the impact it will have on existing homes and shops.
The first proposals from Northumberland Estates to redevelop Prudhoe town centre were put forward in 2007.
Numerous objections were lodged from individuals and businesses and the town’s Co-op challenged and stalled the plans in a High Court case in 2009.
But amended plans were re-submitted by the Duke’s Northumberland Estates office and last night, before dozens of onlookers at a specially-convened meeting at Hexham Auction Mart, the committee decided the future of Prudhoe would be significantly enhanced by the scheme and voted in favour.
Coun Bill Garrett, a lifelong resident, said: “I feel as well qualified as anyone else to speak on issues regarding Prudhoe, and what we have not got in Prudhoe is a town centre where people want to come and do their shopping.
“This is a one-off opportunity. In the last 20 or 30 years we have seen a decline because people cannot buy what they want here. But we will get 17 extra shops and a modern facility.”
A recent planning report said that 74% of Prudhoe residents left the town to do their weekly shop, travelling to Hexham or into Newcastle.
The Duke’s head of planning, Colin Barnes, said the proposals would revitalise the town.
He added: “The planning case, the economic case, the social case are today much stronger than they were when (the former) Tynedale Council first approved this application.
“It is not possible to do this development without some effect on neighbouring properties, but we have worked to mitigate the effects.”
Major concerns have been raised over proximity of traffic to housing, sewage capabilities, environmental impact and even light pollution from a three-storey car park.
Former Prudhoe town mayor Jennifer McGee spoke out against the plans, saying: “The cumulative adverse effect on the town of Prudhoe and its residents is horrendous. The vast majority gave strong and solid reasons why this application should be turned down.
“We are being led to believe that everything is fine ... but we are not convinced.”
Castlefields estate resident Christine Henman said traffic noise would be “unacceptable” and an acoustic wall – to be built to protect houses from noise – would, by World Health Organisation criteria, be “a serious annoyance”.
Co-op spokesman Jonathan Wallace said their trade would drop by between 30 and 40% if a new Sainsbury’s was built as part of the development.
But Coun Edward Heslop said applications had to be decided on planning matters, not competition.
He said: “The bigger picture here is a far, far brighter picture for Prudhoe. I hope the people of Prudhoe will come back in future and say: ‘Thank God this has happened.’”