The Duke of Northumberland’s business venture for a major redevelopment of a county village has been given the green light despite opposition from residents.
The Duke’s Northumberland Estates has been given the go-ahead for just under 50 homes, a new doctors surgery and business units at Shilbottle near Alnwick.
It had faced 29 letters of objection and two opposition petitions of almost 400 signatures.
The bid has been approved by a government planning inspector having initially been refused by Northumberland County Council.
The inspector has also meanwhile ordered the council to pay the estates’ costs having ruled it had “no reasonable grounds” to refuse the scheme.
A village leader voiced disappointment at the decision and at the council choosing not to defend its refusal. She called on the estates not to seek costs as a “good will gesture” and urged it to increase “paltry” funding promised to the community.
The estates has been given approval for 47 new homes, including 14 affordable properties, a doctors’ surgery and start-up business units on land south of Grange Road.
Twenty nine letters of objection were lodged with the council along with two petitions against the proposal, one with 133 signatures and the other with 250.
Shilbottle Parish Council, which instigated one of the petitions, voiced concerns over drainage and the number of homes in a village which has grown from 600 properties to 800 in recent years.
County councillors refused the application against officer advice in 2013 and the estates subsequently appealed, following which the council opted not to defend its decision.
A planning inspector has now opted to allow the appeal, and approved the estates’ request that the council pick up its costs relating to the challenge.
He claimed the council had no substantive reasons for refusing and ruled that there were “no reasonable grounds for refusing the application in the first place.”
Colin Barnes, head of planning and development at the estates, said: “The previous planning application had been refused against the advice of planning officers and the statutory drainage authorities, so the estate felt it had little option other than to appeal the decision.
“The appeal itself was straightforward and backed by strong evidence, much of which had been presented at the planning application stage.
“As developers we always try to work with the planning officers to ensure that our proposals are professionally prepared and in accord with council policy in terms of meeting current housing needs.
“As with any developer, our preference would always be to avoid an appeal.
“Unfortunately sometimes this is not possible, and where the planning committee chooses to go against the evidence and recommendations of its officers, they run the risk that costs will be awarded as in this case, and that tax payers will end up footing the bill.”
Elisabeth Haddow, vice chairman of the parish council, voiced disappointment at the decision, given the number of homes for sale in the village and at the county council’s failure to defend its decision.
“They (estates) will be very happy but I can not say the villagers of Shilbottle will be. The county did not support our stand against the duke. ”
She voiced hope that promised flooding measures would be delivered.
Of the costs, Coun Haddow labelled it a “shame” the council will have to pay and added: “I would have thought the duke would have withdrawn that if he wants to work with the parish and with the community.
“It would have been a gesture of good will.”
She also described the £9,400 financial contribution towards provision or maintenance of sport and recreation facilities as derisory, saying it would not cover repairs to play equipment, and calling for investment in a village school.
“I hope the paltry sum is revised to reflect the impact they are going to have on this village.”
The estates said this figure had been agreed with the council.
A county council spokeswoman said the authority is in negotiations with the estates over the costs to be paid.
On the back of the refusal of the county council’s application, the estates submitted a revised scheme to the authority for just the housing element.
This yielded 114 letters of objections - 107 of which were based on a template - a petition against the development signed by 28 residents and opposition from the parish council.
The county council refused the scheme despite an officer advising approval and the estates has since appealed, with a decision on that awaited.