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Sunday, 26 October 2014

Extra houses on hospital site get the green light

DESPITE continued opposition from Prudhoe Town Council, developers Gentoo Homes have been granted consent for an additional five houses on the Prudhoe Hospital site.

And Gentoo has also dodged having to pay any extra for on-site play provision at the site.

Gentoo’s last-minute plea to be spared the usual contribution for playground facilities concerned Prudhoe’s Coun. Bill Garrett, at the November meeting of Northumberland County Council’s west area planning committee.

He called for the matter to be adjourned for a month, so the views of Prudhoe Town Council could be sought “as a matter of common courtesy.”

He said the town council had been in negotiations with Gentoo on taking over responsibility for the play equipment on the adjacent Gentoo site, where 60 houses were already under construction.

He argued the town council should be made aware of any waiving of responsibility for more play equipment before a decision was made.

He said: “I feel uncomfortable that this is being done without the town council’s knowledge, and I don’t think a delay of one month would have a lot of impact on the scheme.”

However, he failed to find support from other councillors, who felt planning obligations on developers were not the remit of town or parish councils.

There was alarm from councillors though that Gentoo should be seeking permission for another five houses when it already had consent for 60.

Coun. Richard Dodd, of Ogle, asked: “This is a very big site, and it’s a bit like playing cards with someone who has been fiddling the deck.

“Are Gentoo trying to wriggle out of anything by asking for five houses here and five there?”

However, he was assured by the council’s area development manager Graeme Robbie that everything was above board with the application. The site had originally been earmarked for a care village within the Prudhoe Hospital site, but no potential providers had come forward to run it.

Gentoo had therefore decided to put another five luxury houses on the site instead – three with five bedrooms, one with four, and one with three.

On the question of waiving the contribution for play provision, Mr Robbie pointed out the contribution Gentoo had already made for the 60 homes under construction amounted to an over-provision for the site, so he felt it would be reasonable to waive the payment for the additional five properties.

Prudhoe Town Council remains bitterly disappointed with the way the Prudhoe Hospital site redevelopment has gone, with far fewer affordable homes than it had hoped for.

In its formal objection to the latest proposal for five homes, the town council argued the need for social housing was once again being ignored, and the affordable housing provision further diluted.

It said promises made to Prudhoe in respect of the former hospital site were being broken, and the plans had not been co-ordinated, with piecemeal development taking place.

It also questioned whether the existing road infrastructure could cope with the additional demands being placed on it.

However, Mr Robbie said the development of this brownfield site was in line with council policy, and he recommended approval.

And despite his concerns about the waiving of the play contribution, Coun. Garrett welcomed the scheme.

He said: “We are getting some very high quality properties on a lovely site which lends itself to this type of home.”

His only concern was that construction traffic should come through the hospital site itself, rather than the already congested roads in the area.

He said: “ It’s a huge site to develop, and another 65 houses, plus the Ferndale centre at the hospital, will put a lot of pressure on Moor Road and South Road.

“It’s something we are going to have to keep an eye on.”

Permission was granted.

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