A NEW housing estate being lined up to take the place of the old Cragside Primary School at Cramlington would be an accident waiting to happen because of the narrowness of the road leading to the site, a meeting has been told.
Northumberland County Council planning officers say the 55-home development proposed by Taylor Wimpey has several plus points.
It would bring a derelict and overgrown site back into use and would also help meet council’s market-price and affordable housing targets, they told a meeting of the authority’s south east area planning committee at Blyth Civic Centre.
However, two neighbours of the proposed estate – Helen Charlton, of Cateran Way, and the Rev Steve Wilkinson, team vicar at St Nicholas’s Church – have spoken out against the plans.
Miss Charlton said in a letter to the council: “In the main, we’re not objecting to the building of houses on the site.
“We all accept that the site needs redeveloping, and the council needs the cash from the sale, but Taylor Wimpey are suggesting they could use the existing narrow access road.
“We contend that this is a serious accident waiting to happen as the road onto the site comes from the end of an already cramped, overused cul-de-sac, with insufficient parking, blocked by a bus for five to ten minutes every half hour.
“We can’t see how the residents of the new 55 houses – we’re estimating perhaps 100 cars – will be able to get in or out safely, never mind the construction traffic, and more seriously, the emergency services.”
She told the meeting that she was speaking not only for the people who had signed letters of objection, but also for neighbours of hers who had taken part in a Taylor Wimpey community consultation programme in the mistaken belief that their views would be put before the committee.
Miss Charlton also expressed concerns about privacy and overshadowing and urged the councillors not to make any decision without first visiting the site.
“When you do decide the future of the site, I urge you to make that decision based on common sense and community,” she said.
Rev Wilkinson, a police officer in Manchester for almost 30 years, said he had serious misgivings about emergency access to the proposed new houses.
He said that travelling along a road restricted by parked cars and then trying to make the turn into the site was “something beyond which drivers would choose to do”.
Representing the Buckinghamshire-based building firm, John Driver said there were two sides to every story, and the benefits of the scheme were being overlooked by the objectors.
“We are in a recession, and new housing can underpin an economy,” he said.
“New housing has the ability to attract new people to an area, but it can also provide alternative houses for people in the area.
“The majority of housing in that area is of a certain kind. We are proposing good, strong, two-storey family homes with adequate gardens, so if people want to move up or trade up, they can.
“In addition to that, we are providing 16 affordable houses on the site.”
Mr Driver also spoke of the financial benefit to the county council if the development went ahead.
He said: “£328,000 will come to this council from central government as a result of new homes bonus.
“That’s spread over six years – that’s £54,000 a year – because we need, in this country, to start building new houses.
“Last year, we built the lowest level of new houses since 1923. We built 103,000 homes nationwide. We’re meant to be building 300,000 to keep up with our ageing population and growing population.”
Coun Wayne Daley, of Cramlington North, questioned why the council’s highways department had made no comment on the access to the site.
The committee agreed to hold a site visit on Tuesday, September 13, before making a decision.
After the meeting, Miss Charlton said she was pleased councillors had agreed to put the application on hold until they had seen the site for themselves.
She added: “We would be happy to see houses on that site, but make them appropriate, make the access to it reasonable and safe and don’t plonk them in somebody’s back garden.
“Some of these bungalows have floor-to-ceiling picture windows, and if they were completely overlooked, that is just going to be awful for those people.”