Housing developments will contribute millions for schools and GP practices

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Millions of pounds of contributions for schools, GPs and other infrastructure have been secured in relation to three major housing developments in south-east Northumberland.

Members of the county council’s strategic planning committee were disappointed that one of the packages, in relation to an outline scheme at Newsham in Blyth, was reduced from what had been originally agreed.

However, they were happy with the assurances from the authority’s planning officers that the negotiations had been tough and that the developer was still contributing a package totalling £4million – more than a third of the estimated operating profits.

Plus, this figure is much higher than what was sought on a previous planning approval on the land, which has since lapsed, or from the neighbouring Portland Wynd development.

Coun Ian Swithenbank was happy that the planning officers had done their best, but warned: “We don’t want to get a reputation for negotiating down on the initial figure.”

The reasons behind the reduction, for the site south-west of Park Farm, South Newsham Road, where around 300 homes are to be built, were that there are ‘abnormal costs’ in bringing the site forward for housing, largely in relation to a culvert running through the land.

This has been assessed independently and it was agreed that the overall contribution should be dropped – a shortfall of £751,350 from the levels originally sought by council officers.

Coun Malcolm Robinson said: “I don’t really have a problem with the houses, I do have a problem with the deal. My issue is we are asking our children to pay for those abnormal costs.”

It was pointed out that the full education contribution originally requested could still be maintained, as the council can decide how to split the money, but there would then be less money for affordable housing.

All three developments – the other two being linked schemes for 800 homes in Ashington – had already been approved by the committee last year, but were brought back simply to approve these section 106 legal agreements and other new or amended conditions.

The outline scheme for up to 200 homes on ​land east of North Seaton, Summerhouse Lane, will deliver 15 per cent affordable housing; £1,075,800 for schools; £138,000 for healthcare; £164,000 for sports to be spent in Hirst Park Ashington and/or at Newbiggin Town Football Club; £48,678 for improvement to the nearby Ashwood roundabout.; between £53,977 and £118,750 for mitigation works at the Moor Farm roundabout; and £120,000 for coastal mitigation.

The second outline proposal, for up to 600 homes on land east of Wansbeck Hospital, will provide 15 per cent affordable housing (36 on site and £810,000 in lieu of the others); £3,060,200 for schools; £414,000 for healthcare; £492,000 for sports to be spent in Hirst Park Ashington and/or at Newbiggin Town Football Club; £146,033 for improvement to the nearby Ashwood roundabout.; between £160,795 and £353,750 for mitigation works at the Moor Farm roundabout; £360,000 for coastal mitigation; £240,000 for bus services; and a marketing strategy to support the delivery of a local centre of shops, etc.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service