CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating after controversial plans to build hundreds of new homes on land at Holystone were rejected by councillors.
Northumberland Estates had applied to North Tyneside Council for planning consent to build up to 450 houses in Scaffold Hill.
The proposals included the creation of a doctors’ surgery and 100 allotments, along with the provision of a 100-acre extension to the adjacent Rising Sun Country Park at Benton.
Neighbours of the site, however, have been vehemently fighting the proposals, and their efforts were rewarded when the council’s planning committee rejected the application at its meeting on Tuesday.
More than 200 letters were submitted to the authority opposing the development on the grounds that it would destroy open farmland, green fields and wildlife corridors.
There were only two letters in favour of the scheme.
A further 255 letters of objection were received after the plans were amended, along with another two letters of support.
Rising Sun Country Park friends’ group chairman Vivien Fenn Webber told the meeting: “I believe passionately in the importance of preserving this unique facility and protecting it from damage caused by these development proposals.
“We have been left with an area that has evolved slowly into an amazing park.
“I have heard the Rising Sun Country Park described quite rightly as the jewel in the crown of North Tyneside and yet this council want to approve developments that would cause damage to this jewel.
“It is absolutely vital for the future generations that we preserve the Rising Sun Country Park.”
Objectors also raised concerns over Holystone Primary School already being full and any children who would live on the proposed estate would have to travel some distance to attend other schools.
Coun Linda Darke, of the Killingworth Ward, said: “In the planning application there is no mention of the fact that 450 residential dwellings could mean many more children applying to attend the Holystone Primary School, which is currently over subscribed.
“Where are these children going to go?
“This could mean families who already have children attending will have no place for younger siblings to attend, meaning stress for parents who may have to have children attending different schools.
“No provision appears to have been made for this eventuality.”
The committee heard residents’ fears surrounding the impact the development could have on drainage in the area, with poor drainage already being a problem in the nearby Stonelea Estate.
Objectors also said that reducing the area of land available for water to be absorbed would increase flooding on the Holystone bypass.
Colin Barnes, of The Northumberland Estates, however, told the planning committee they should “never look a gift horse in the mouth” and approve the scheme, which he said is the best he has seen in his 30 years working in planning.
He said: “Think about it. It is adjacent to the A19, near to the Metro stations at Palmersville and Northumberland Park and areas of mass employment at Cobalt.
“It hits all the right notes so in the wider picture it is right.
“Traffic, yes it is busy in rush hour. Where isn’t?
“It will make a major improvement to the A191 and the Asda and Wheatsheaf roundabouts.
“The area where we propose the houses is of the lowest value.
“We will improve and enrich habitats.
“The landscape will be greatly improved, be assured.
“This meets the council’s needs on many fronts.
“By working with you, we can deliver something very unique.”
The majority of councillors turned down the proposal, however, on a number of grounds, including the loss of open space and employment land, the impact it would have on the ecology and habitat of the Rising Sun Country Park and the impact on traffic and visual character of the area.
Coun David Corkey, of the Chirton ward, said: “I would raise objection on the grounds of the development of the traffic.
“I know we had a very full and very good technical analysis of that but you know, one person’s marginally worse is another person’s severe.
“One person’s short cut is another person’s rat run.
“I think there are sufficient grounds to object on the basis that the proposals to mitigate the traffic are not satisfactory both in terms of within the site area itself but also further on towards Newcastle.
“I use this route very regularly and have been held up a considerable number of times.
“It is alright to say, “oh well, it’s busy at rush hour”, but it is getting beyond as much as people can take at times.”
Coun Muriel Green, of the Weetslade ward, and Coun John Harrison, of the Howdon ward, also addressed the committee with their concerns about the traffic and the loss of open space.
Mrs Green said: “On balance, I am opposed to this.
“We are desperate for affordable houses, I just don’t think this is the right place to build.”
Coun John Hunter, of also the Howdon ward, added: “I am in the same frame of mind about the loss of open space.
“Again, we seem to be great at giving away and chopping away at green space.
“If the wildlife could sing you know, they would be singing a song from the 1950s by Guy Mitchell, “Don’t fence us in”.”
Speaking after the meeting, Keith Page, from the Holystone Action Group, said: “We are delighted that the planning committee listened to the detailed arguments presented, both at the meeting and in our submissions beforehand.
“We believe that the planning application, which was encouraged by Mayor Arkley’s Core Strategy, should never have been submitted due to the devastating effect the development proposals would have had on North Tyneside.
“There are much more suitable sites for development, including brown field sites.
“We expect Northumberland Estates to appeal and, if or when they do, we would hope that the matter would go to a public enquiry, giving equity to the appeal at Whitehouse Farm and allowing us to make our clear arguments to that enquiry.
“This sends a clear message that the residents of North Tyneside have had enough of losing green field areas to the greed of developers and we hope that the Mayor, her Cabinet and the planning department will take note.”
Mr Barnes said: “We were disappointed with the decision but will consider the reasons given before deciding what to do.
“The business community is being put in a difficult position because the council has a strategy to promote growth but recent planning committee decisions send out a very different message.”