Villagers against new Northumberland housing scheme lodge complaint with council

-Credit: (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)
-Credit: (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

Villagers opposed to a housing development over flooding concerns have lodged a complaint over a decision to grant planning permission.

Members of the Tynedale Local Area Planning Committee approved proposals for 26 new homes in Bellingham earlier this month. At the planning meeting, objectors urged the committee to reject the plans over fears the development could lead to flooding at the nearby Bellingham Middle School.

However, the plans were recommended for approval by council officers. Flood experts at the local authority raised no objection to the scheme, and councillors were told that the application included sufficient plans around drainage.

Despite this, residents and parish councillors remain unhappy. In a letter to the council's monitoring officer - seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service - Coun Joyce Knudsen said the "genuine concerns" of Bellingham residents were "undermined".

She also criticised Coun Colin Horncastle, who urged members to approve the proposals. Coun Horncastle had voiced concerns over the council being taken to appeal by the applicant over the scheme - but the objector pointed out that the application was submitted by Ascent Homes - the housing developer arm of the council's development company, Advance Northumberland.

Coun Horncastle has insisted that all procedures were followed and the correct decision was made.

Coun Knudsen wrote: "Coun Horncastle signalled his lack of consideration of the Bellingham Community. Coun Horncastle does not live in Bellingham and will not be affected by the adverse impacts associated with the planning permission.

"In this instance, the developer was Advance Northumberland, and it would appear to be somewhat farcical to imagine that Advance/Northumberland County Council would mount an appeal against itself.

"Coun Horncastle undermined our contribution to the meeting, knowing we were effectively gagged and could not respond. The so-called community involvement was a myth - the wishes of the Bellingham community are overriden."

Responding to these concerns, Coun Horncastle stated that correct procedure had been followed by the committee.

He said: "Procedures don't allow objectors to come back. Everything was followed correctly.

"I made no statement towards the public. Everything was directed towards the committee. No matter how sympathetic we are to the views of the people of Bellingham, there was the danger of another appeal situation.

"They are not the experts, that is why we employ people like our flooding officers - we don't employ them for fun, they work on applications like this for months.

"I was really concerned because I was sat there thinking this is just like the Prudhoe application, where we lost on appeal and were fortunate not to have to pay costs. If we get in a situation like the one at Prudhoe and the inspector looks at the evidence, he will say the officers said there wasn't a problem.

"As far as I am concerned, we followed our procedures correctly and the correct decision was made, it was by the book. If flood officers said there was a real possibility of flooding the schools, that's a completely different situation - but they didn't."