Nothing for community

I am writing about the planning application at Milfield to redevelop the old school site.

Saturday, 19th January 2019, 8:00 am

Milfield is an historic village and the site of the Palace of the Ancient Kings of Northumberland and ancient archaeology, including wooden henges. It is an area of high landscape value.

The plan submitted by Gleeson Homes was rejected in September because it would have significant social and environmental impact and result in the loss of open space and leisure facilities.

The application was contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework. There were also concerns about the provision of parking and materials of construction.

The scheme that has been submitted is identical to the one which was rejected.

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I am very concerned that the application shows it is to be decided by delegated authority. If this is allowed to happen, I believe it would be an abuse of the democratic process. The correct procedure surely would have been to lodge an appeal.

The scheme proposed offers nothing to Milfield, except further strain on very limited resources.

The closure of the school tore the heart out of the community. The county council, which owns the site, closed the building and excluded the community from using facilities that were used for community sport, social and education after hours.

We, as residents, would welcome the site coming back into use and not object to some development. The current proposal, however, is offering nothing meaningful to the village, except disruption and an increase in population by 20 per cent, with no facilities.

The only reason the playing field is not used is due to the landowner, Northumberland County Council, excluding the public and letting what should have been a community asset fall into disuse. The parish council has requested the facilities be put back to community use.

No pre-planning consultation has taken place.

The county council is in a unique position here. It owns the land it wishes to sell and is the planning authority. It could influence the development by placing conditions on the sale and covenants on the land so a scheme could benefit the village. Further, it could assist the village by acting with the developer to fund facilities.

Local planning guides indicate that good design and planning are indivisible and that design that fails to take the opportunity for improving the character and quality of the area should be refused. They also seek to ensure that any development in areas of high landscape value accords with its surroundings in scale, mass and materials. This is not the case.

The council has a duty to raise money for all taxpayers, but also has a duty to the residents of Milfield.

Part of the old school buildings were sold and developed into housing. None of the money came to the village, despite that building originally having been funded by residents. None of the money from the sale of the main school site would, again, appear to be coming to the village.

If there were some changes to the design, especially the entrance to the site, which as it stands will cause short and long-term issues, replacement sports and social facilities made available in the village, such as a MUGA, and money to redevelop the Reading Room as a community hub, I am sure a compromise could be reached.

The building facings are also out of keeping with rural Northumberland.

We in the village are concerned that the development will not sell as houses tend to take over 12 months to sell. There is little employment in the area, public transport is very limited and there are limited facilities.

Gleeson states that it expects to sell 24 of the houses to people within three miles. Where are these people?

Finally, there is no identifiable need for housing in this area.

Joseph A Finch

Wooler