Row erupts as Northumberland County Council look to halt new homes

Northumberland County Council has been accused of seeking to cap growth after opting to oppose a Morpeth housing scheme

Alison Byard and Phil Ashmore
Alison Byard and Phil Ashmore

A council has been accused of wanting to cap growth after it opted to oppose controversial plans for almost 400 homes at a public inquiry.

Northumberland County Council faced the accusation from Barratt Homes North East after members agreed they were ‘minded to refuse’ the company’s bid for 396 homes just outside Morpeth, which is to be subject of an inquiry later this year.

The developer’s plan faces more than 500 objections. Yet Barratt has hit out at the council for claiming the development would not be financially viable.

Managing director Mike Roberts said: “We were also disappointed to hear the officers inform members that the scheme was economically unsustainable.

“We are particularly surprised by this, as it seems Northumberland County Council appear to want to cap growth, as our research, which was not disputed, demonstrated that the project would bring with it major economic benefits, including 180 jobs, £4m for the council through the New Homes Bonus and an additional £650,000-a-year in council tax receipts.

“It would also result in 30% of the homes being affordable, around 119 in total.”

Barratt David Wilson Homes and Tees Valley Housing are proposing the homes on land east of Stobhill roundabout at Hepscott.

However, objections flooded in, with 522 from residents, and 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, consultants representing Persimmon Homes, the ward member for Morpeth Stobhill, and the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan Preparation Group. Objectors claimed the development would double the size of Hepscott parish and erode a buffer between the community and Morpeth, and voiced concern about rainwater run-off ending up in the Hepscott Burn.

There was also alarm at the plans being lodged at a time when the council’s core strategy planning guidance had yet to be completed.

One letter of support was lodged with the county council.

Barratt claimed Morpeth is identified as an area for growth and new development. The project would address a shortage of new homes and a demand for family properties, it added.

The development partners appealed to the planning inspectorate on the grounds of non-determination, with the council having failed to make a decision within a 13-week target, triggering an inquiry.

The council’s north area planning committee has now met to agree its position at the inquiry.

Members were recommended that they be ‘minded to refuse’ and voted in favour.

Last night, Morpeth town councillor Alison Byard said she was pleased with the council’s decision.

She said: “I think the councillors made the right decision. The feeling against it among the people of Morpeth remains very strong.”

Mr Roberts last night added: “Barratt and Tees Valley Housing Association were disappointed at the ‘minded to refuse’ recommendation. The officer’s report to members of the planning committee was very positive and identified that the site has no landscape designation.”

He said he expected the inquiry to take place in June or July.

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