Refusal for ‘Byker Wall’ on quayside

Coun Eileen Cartie, who represents the Wensleydale ward.
Coun Eileen Cartie, who represents the Wensleydale ward.

‘My residents don’t want a Byker Wall’ – that was the local councillor’s view as a bid to alter a housing development on Blyth’s waterfront was rejected.

An application for 41 new homes at Commissioner’s Quay was approved in 2016, but the developer Arch, the county council-owned company, wanted to vary the planning permission.

It sought to change some of the house types, but the main difference was that a proposed layout change would see 21 three-bedroom houses (up from 18) along the Quay Road boundary, which would also mean the removal of green space in the middle of the site.

Speaking as the local member, Coun Eileen Cartie, who represents the Wensleydale ward, said: “I don’t believe these are minor amendments. It looks like the Byker Wall is going to be built in Blyth.

“This is an old area of Blyth that needs preserving. My residents don’t want a Byker Wall of Blyth and that’s what it’s going to be like.”

Resident Diane Carr said that the changes were ‘tantamount to erecting a barrier’.

“It will be overcrowded with cars and people,” she added, highlighting the potential impact on the nearby High Light, the oldest lighthouse in the North East.

Fellow objector Janet Tomlin said: “Quay Road is going to become more of a car park than it already is.

“It’s simply a way of making the development more attractive to a developer. Is the heritage of Blyth not more important?”

The planning officer explained that issues such as parking and impact on heritage had been dealt with as part of the original application and this decision was simply about the change of house types and a revised layout.

And Tim Bailey, from the architects working on the scheme, who also developed the Commissioner’s Quay Inn and Blyth Workspace, said: “Nothing has really changed, it’s just the detail.”

He explained that the changes were to respond more closely to the current housing marketplace in Blyth and to adjust for some of the conditions on the site.

However, he failed to convince a number of the councillors as an initial motion to approve the application failed, by six votes to five, before a proposal to refuse the bid on the grounds of the loss of amenity space and loss of view was backed by nine votes to zero, with two abstentions.

Coun Lesley Rickerby said: “The original plan was aesthetically pleasing, it has green spaces, it’s close to what you would like to see, but I think the residents have eloquently expressed their reasons to refuse this.

“It’s not a gateway development for Blyth. It will put us on the map maybe, but not for the right reasons.”

Ben O'Connell , Local Democracy Reporting Service