Green light for Treelocate plan

An artificial tree and plant-maker’s new factory will not affect plans to dual the A1, county bosses have been assured.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 4:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th June 2021, 4:21 pm
The proposed new site of Treelocate is on the Belford side of the A1.

Treelocate, based in Belford, has been fighting for almost three years to secure permission for a new showroom and manufacturing facility across the A1 from its current base.

Objections from Highways England had blocked the process, but this related to fears of slow-moving traffic shuttling across the dual carriageway between the existing and replacement sites, rather than concerns it could comprise the proposed upgrading of the route.

“Highways England has said it’s not concerned about the growth of the site on the A1,” said Rob Murfin, Northumberland County Council’s director of planning.

“But they are concerned about Treelocate having their existing site and opening a new site and then having forklift trucks and other equipment ferrying back and forth across the A1.

“It’s not to do with the volume of traffic, it’s to do with the A1’s traffic, so the applicant has signed a legal agreement where they will not use their existing site [once the new one is ready].

“That addresses the strategic assessment of Highways England, but if we can’t get that signed then the site won’t go ahead - that has been the sticking point.”

Murfin was speaking at yesterday's (Tuesday, June 9) meeting of the county council’s Strategic Planning Committee, the first time it has been held in person, rather than via videolink, for more than a year, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Objections from families living nearby claimed the firm’s new base could inflict ‘intolerable noise’ and questioned whether it was needed.

A representative for Treelocate, however, insisted there was a ‘pressing need’ for extra space and that the company was already forced to rely on storage facilities throughout the county to meet the demands of large orders.

Cllr Georgina Hill questioned whether the assurances given over the site handover would be enough to satisfy Highways England, but was told the arrangement would be guaranteed by a formal legal agreement over and above the terms of a conventional planning condition.

Cllr Martin Swinbank said he feared the firm could be ‘lost from the county’ if the scheme was not given the green light.

Councillors voted 13-1 to approve the application, subject to final confirmation by Highways England.