Homes scheme gets go-ahead at second try

The field at North Seaton.
The field at North Seaton.

Proposals to build 240 homes to the south of Ashington, which were rejected last November, have now been approved following a change in land allocation.

As previously reported by the Leader, an outline application, for land to the south of Newbiggin Road and on the northern edge of North Seaton Industrial Estate, was refused at the November meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee due to the site being allocated as employment land.

This was despite Michael Hepburn, of Nathaniel Lichfield Partners, on behalf of the applicant, Apinder Ghura, highlighting the site’s unsuccessful history as employment land.

“The site has been allocated since 1971 – more than 40 years – and there’s never been any planning applications for industrial uses,” he said.

However, among the major modifications to the council’s core strategy, which are out for consultation until later this month, is the proposal to deallocate this site as employment land due to availability and deliverability issues with this site, an over-allocation of employment land in the plan in general and the availability of other employment land opportunities in Ashington, which are more readily available and deliverable than this site.

And so, at the committee’s meeting last Tuesday, the scheme was unanimously approved, although the green light was actually given to an almost-identical new bid. The previous refused application has been appealed and an inquiry was slated for September.

There were still concerns – raised first by Coun Richard Dodd – about the fact that no affordable housing would be provided through the development, but this was resolved when the applicant agreed, following discussions during the meeting, to provide a contribution towards off-site affordable housing as a goodwill gesture.

Members had heard that the reason for the lack of requirement to provide 15 per cent affordable homes, as required via the emerging core strategy, was one of viability, based on the abnormal costs associated with making the site suitable for housing development.

Committee members, including Coun Dodd, have raised concerns on several occasions in recent months that sites in the north and the west of Northumberland have to provide affordable homes, while sites in the south-east of the county are exempt.

This is due to factors such as lower land values and works required to bring sites forward, for example, on former mines.