Appeal lodged over plans for bedsits in Blyth

An appeal has been lodged over plans for more bedsits in Blyth town centre, which sparked protests and petitions before being rejected last September.

Monday, 27th January 2020, 11:53 am
Updated Thursday, 30th January 2020, 5:38 pm
Protests before the planning application was heard by councillors.

The objectors got the outcome they wanted in September when the Ashington and Blyth Local Area Council unanimously refused the bid, but the final decision will now be made by a planning inspector.

The application was seeking permission to convert a vacant building on Waterloo Road, across the road from the Market Place, into a house in multiple occupation with 17 en-suite rooms for tenants.

There would also be an office, gym, laundry rooms and a kitchen, while the front of the ground floor would be retained as a retail unit.

But the scheme had caused a lot of unrest in the town, with residents concerned that the tenants would be homeless people and ex-offenders, resulting in increased drugs and crime in the town centre.

Two petitions opposing the development had attracted more than 2,000 signatures, while a protest was held in the town centre ahead of the planning meeting.

The proposals had been recommended for approval by planning officers, however, the Labour-dominated local area council concluded that this was not the right location for such a development.

The official decision notice states that it would ‘conflict with the priorities and vision for the future regeneration’ and ‘specifically undermine the aspiration for recovery, vitality and retail growth in Blyth town centre by introducing restricted quality residential accommodation within a prominent and centrally located building’.

Coun Susan Dungworth, leader of the Labour Group in Northumberland, said: “Blyth needs money and jobs, not more bedsits. If we’re going to attract investment and business, the last thing we need is a hostel in our town centre.

“We understand that there are single people in need of affordable housing, but we already have several hostels in Blyth. Adding another one into the mix, without any additional support for tenants, at such a crucial time and in such a high-profile location, risks putting off potential investors and holding our town back even further.

“Labour councillors overwhelmingly rejected this application first time round and will be fighting this appeal every step of the way.”

Blyth Valley MP Ian Levy said: “As a Member of Parliament, I have no power to intervene in the planning process, but I believe that the views of local people should take precedence in this case – and they are overwhelmingly in opposition to the development.

“Both local authorities and locally elected representatives of all political parties oppose this application.

“I have written to the Planning Inspectorate and called on them to uphold the local, democratic planning decision which is that the development should be refused.”