Councillors have approved a scheme to redevelop a former Cramlington school site with 19 new homes after taking a closer look at access fears.
The application, by Ascent Homes, the house-building arm of the council-owned development company Advance Northumberland, for the St Paul’s Catholic Academy site, off Doddington Drive, was first submitted back in September 2016, but was then held up due to legal issues.
The school has already been demolished, following permission being granted in June last year, and the housing bid was recommended for approval at the March meeting of the Cramlington, Bedlington and Seaton Valley Local Area Council.
However, members unanimously agreed to go on a site visit, largely due to concerns over the access, which would be via Doddington Drive; this was deemed acceptable by highways officers, but sparked objections from residents regarding the increased traffic, parking and congestion on a narrow road through an existing housing estate.
Construction traffic will get to the site via a temporary haul road from the Dudley Lane roundabout and across the former playing fields, and there have been calls for this to be used to access the new development.
But having seen the site for themselves, members of the local area council unanimously approved the proposals at their meeting last Wednesday (April 17).
Coun Christine Dunbar said: “Everything has been done to try to mitigate against disturbance of residents on Doddington Drive.”
Coun Ian Swithenbank claimed that there were ‘elements of this that disturb me, not just the width, but the twists and turns on that road’, but that the committee had been given ‘very clear advice’ from the highways experts.
“To do otherwise (than follow the advice), would be irresponsible with the public purse,” he added.
Coun Barry Flux, who represents Cramlington West, said: “Proposing this gives me no joy. I think this committee would view it in a very dim light if we see plans for the site next to it in a few weeks.
“I have a lot of sympathy for the residents in that area and if we could have had the other access, we would have pushed for it, but the site visit made up my mind that’s it’s too far away.”
Earlier in the meeting, Coun Mark Swinburn, ward member for Cramlington Village, had spoken against the application, saying this was a case which highlighted the ‘importantace of local knowledge’.
“If this is passed, it cannot be undone. Who will be left with the problems?” he said.
“I ask that the committee thinks carefully about the effects on the community of this application and makes the right decision for them.”
But Karen Read, of KLR Planning Ltd, the agent for Ascent Homes, said that the concerns of the residents of Doddington Drive had been taken into account, but that highways officers had concluded that it could accommodate the extra traffic.
She added that the temporary construction route could not be used permanently as a development of 19 homes ‘cannot support an access of this size’.
Responding later to councillors’ questions, the council’s highways officer Graham Fairs said that the scheme would result in one extra vehicle every three to four minutes at peak times, which could not be considered as a serious impact.
No affordable housing will be provided as no registered provider was interested in taking on the small number of units, but the developer will have to provide £72,675 as an off-site contribution.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service