Town council aims to make its voice heard
Berwick Town Council wants to take steps to ensure it has a full voice on major planning applications.
Although it is a statutory consultee, the council was not consulted on mitigation schemes introduced relatively late in the process over the recently approved plans for a new retail park.
Clerk Gareth Davies, in a report to the town council’s planning committee, said: “It is hard not to argue that the Northumberland County Council planning consultation system is geared towards enabling government targets for making decisions promptly rather than at enabling the widest and most complete consultation.
“This was evidenced during the recent application concerning the site at Loaning Meadows, when Northumberland County Council felt it did not have to consult with the town council on mitigation schemes introduced relatively late in the process, after Berwick Town Council had been formally consulted.”
The town council is particularly keen to ensure it retains a full role in the planning process with several major applications in the pipeline, including a new hospital and leisure centre on the Swan Centre site and the redevelopment of the infirmary site.
There is also the possibility of a further application at the Aldi site on North Road, since the development of the new Aldi site at Loanings Meadows depends upon a legal agreement that the current Aldi site will not be used for food retail.
Coun Anne Forbes said: “We need to be monitoring these applications all the way through, especially with three big developments coming in the future.”
The clerk plans to discuss the issues with the county council.
The retail park plans were approved by the county council’s strategic planning committee by an 11-2 vote despite local councillor Catherine Seymour calling for the application to be refused. She expressed concerns about the impact on the town centre and local residents.
She said: “This scheme for a large retail park on a greenfield site is close to residences, a school, Morrisons supermarket, McDonalds and Travelodge and I have received many objections to this application. There are 84 objections online, 25 residents objected at my surgery recently and I was given a petition of 120 residents from all areas of Berwick and the Chamber of Trade and Berwick Civic Society all object.
“Many residents and businesses believe this will impact the historic market town that has already many empty shops, with some of these shops planning to establish a business at proposed retail park. The DDT retail assessment commissioned from Manchester speaks to the contrary, but many in the town believe the footfall will decrease.”