Plans for the demolition of a former Northumberland town care facility and its replacement with homes have been given the green light.
Northumberland County Council has approved plans that will see the old Greenholme Day Care Centre at Haltwhistle bulldozed, and 22 homes built in its place.
The town county councillor who proposed the approval told The Journal he welcomed the development of the site - which had been targeted by vandals and become an eyesore.
But he said he was disappointed at the absence of affordable properties.
The developer - which spoke of its delight at the council’s decision and said work would commence in the spring - said its scheme would deliver “quality homes at prices local people can afford.”
The Woodhead Lane site was operated as a care facility by the county council until closing approximately five years ago.
It was then used on a temporary basis to provide accommodation for GP services during the redevelopment of the Haltwhistle Memorial Hospital site.
The temporary buildings housing those GP services have since been removed and the site, council papers say, is now “vacant and overgrown.”
The planning application - from the Chester-le-Street office of Gleeson Developments - sought the demolition of the building and its replacement with 22 two and three bedroom properties.
A council report reveals that the developer does not propose affordable housing “as their product reflects lower value markets and is, in its own way, affordable.”
It also states that Gleeson acquired the site from the authority on the understanding it would not be required to provide affordable housing.
The report and highlights the company’s reference to “substantial costs” associated with the site and its preparation for development.
It continues that the provision of sport and play contributions, on top of affordable housing, would in Gleeson’s eyes, “make any scheme on this site totally unrealistic and unviable, with a negative return on land value.”
The county council states that the money from the sale of the site can instead be put towards affordable housing.
Haltwhistle Town Council was the sole objector to the scheme, with members “unhappy about the size and paucity of the space” and feeling “that the site is too congested.”
County planning officers recommended it be approved.
And at a meeting of the west area planning committee, members voted in line with that advice.
The recommendation was moved by Coun Ian Hutchinson, committee vice chairman and member for Haltwhistle.
He told The Journal afterwards how he was pleased the site would be developed, yet disappointed at the lack of affordable housing.
“It is an eyesore in the centre of town. On balance, it would be better to have some form of housing there.
“Gleesons build houses which I would not say are affordable.
“I am really disappointed that there was no affordable housing in the scheme but unfortunately in this case there could not be.
“It was really hard to take and to decide on but in a way our hands are tied to a certain extent.
“We are damned if we do and (if) we do not.”
Senior land manager for Gleeson Homes Chris Dodds said: “We are delighted to be bringing Gleeson Homes to Haltwhistle.
“Construction of the 22 two and three bedroom homes will commence early next spring following the demolition of the derelict buildings.”
Responding to the affordable housing issue, he added: “Gleeson specialise in building quality homes at prices local people can afford. We anticipate prices of our homes in Haltwhistle starting from £95,000 or £76,000 when purchased through the government backed Help to Buy initiative.”