A major bid for 480 homes in Cramlington has been given the green light by councillors after fears over a potentially lethal mine gas were largely allayed.
The outline application, by Leebell Developments – a partnership of Persimmon and Bellway Homes, is for up to 480 homes and a 40-bed care home on land north of Station Road, on a site known as Centre Point.
It was approved by Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee on Tuesday afternoon, having been deferred by councillors at the December meeting.
The scheme had sparked 42 objections as well as an 890-name petition opposing the plans on a series of issues including flooding, loss of green space, road and traffic concerns and the impact on schools and facilities.
However, at the committee’s last meeting, it quickly became apparent that the primary concern was stythe gas, which eventually led to members voting to defer the decision pending further assurances from the Coal Authority.
Stythe, also known as black damp, can seep out of old mineworkings and has resulted in fatalities in the UK.
The Coal Authority, the responsible statutory body, has had to install a fan system in this area of Cramlington due to previous issues with gas leaking into homes, but raised no objection to the current application.
It is satisfied that the proposals would not impact the ventillation system or impact on gas emissions.
At this month’s meeting, Cramlington West ward member, Coun Barry Flux said: “Private profit should not come at the expense of public safety or the loss of lives.”
But members were provided with more information by and spent some time questioning the county council’s public protection officer.
He said that while he could not give any cast-iron guarantees - no one could - there were no reasons why he could object to the scheme given all the surveys and evidence provided.
The applicants’ agent, James Hall, said: “We have not taken the matter lightly at all.
“The safety of residents both on and off the site is paramount.”
Moving approval, Coun Dougie Watkin said: “As far as possible, every failsafe this council can put in place as the planning authority has been put in place.”
The scheme was approved by 10 votes to two with one abstention.