Residents made clear their feelings over a proposed caravan storage facility in Cramlington as they packed out a planning appeal hearing last week.
The unexpected number of people who attended the inquiry, at Concordia Leisure Centre last Wednesday, meant a change of rooms was required midway through the proceedings.
It was a rather unorthodox hearing too with as many, if not more, contributions from the public in attendance than the representatives of the applicant, Michael Burke, and the county council’s planning department.
It means that planning inspector Andrea Mageean will have been left in no doubt as to the views of those living in this area of Cramlington, who clearly don’t want the development to take place.
However, Northumberland County Council’s planning officers had recommended approval on both occasions that the scheme went before councillors for a decision.
In July, the Cramlington, Bedlington and Seaton Valley Local Area Council refused a scheme to store up to 755 caravans, although likely to be around 365 for operational purposes, on a one-hectare site between the A189 and B1505.
A previous application, which referred to in excess of 1,500 caravans, was turned down by the committee last September due to the potential severe impacts on the road network, including the Moor Farm roundabout, and that it would be over-development.
This first bid is the one which has been appealed, but the 365 figure for the likely number of caravans was emphasised at the hearing and, if approved, a condition would limit the maximum on site at any time to 755.
The main issue, as outlined by the inspector, was the effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the local area, but residents were just as concerned about highways-safety issues, despite the fact that the county council was not defending this reason for refusal at the appeal.
Following the first refusal, the appellant’s representatives had carried out work on the impact of the development on the road network and neither the council’s highways department nor Highways England had raised objections.
Darran Kitchener, for the applicant, explained that the maximum capacity of the B1505 was around 1,500 vehicles an hour and the current usage is around 750, with the proposed caravan storage facility only contributing an additional 10 vehicle movements per hour at peak times.
Members of the public were sceptical and highlighted a number of local issues such as the nearby school and nursery, parking at the church and the use of the route by ambulances getting to the Northumbria emergency hospital.
The other issue was what Coun Allan Hepple, ward member for Cramlington South East, described as the ‘significant visual intrusion’ which would be ‘completely out of keeping with the surrounding area’.
Planning officers from the county council, said the storage of caravans would have an impact on the openness of the site in an area where nearby residents were used to an open visual aspect.
But the applicant’s agent, Sean Hedley, pointed out that the two council committee reports concluded it would not result in a significant impact on the area and that the site was a ‘transport corridor’ between two very busy roads.
He added that proposed landscaping on the site would actually act as a screen, visually and for noise, between residents and the A189.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service