Town council split on latest St Aidan's plan

The latest plans to redevelop a dilapidated former playground have split opinion on Berwick Town Council.

Saturday, 24th February 2018, 06:55 am
St Aidan's House, Berwick

Michael Guthrie Developments has submitted an application to build two homes in the grounds of St Aidan’s House.

The site, off Palace Green, backs on to the town walls and overlooks the River Tweed.

Planning committee members voted 3-3 but stand-in-chairman, Coun Alan Bowlas, used his casting vote to lodge an objection to the scheme.

He said: “I vote against it in its current form until the county council has had a chance to look at it in more detail. At the moment I feel it is lacking detail. We need more information.”

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He was concerned that the design of the proposed homes was not in keeping with the area and also felt an archaeological survey was needed.

However, Coun Brian Douglas, who had proposed approval, said: “This is a political decision rather than one taken on planning merits.”

A final decision will be taken by Northumberland County Council and it has been indicated that it will be called in for consideration by the planning committee rather than determined by officers using delegated powers.

The applicant already has planning permission to convert the dilapidated former school into six dwellings, including three garages and a greenhouse. The site has been tidied to an extent over the past few months.

It is now proposed to build two one-and-a-half storey dwellings on the same footprint as the original approved garages and greenhouse, comprising two and three bedrooms and an open plan living/kitchen/dining area.

They would have natural slate roofs and white render walls.

Plans for three townhouses on the site were withdrawn for a second time in December after concerns were raised by a conservation officer at the county council about inappropriate design and materials and position.

“I have no problems with the application,” said Coun Douglas.

“With the previous application we had concerns about the impact on Wellington Terrace and the applicant has come back with a one-and-a-half storey proposal which fits into that area.

“We have talked for years about the dereliction of that site. It’s been criminal and there are a lot of people who should be hanging their heads in shame.

“This is a chance to make progress and it’s the best option we have under the circumstances. You can only try for so long.”

Coun Ivor Dixon said: “This site has always been a controversial one and at the moment it’s a disgrace. Something needs to be done with it and I feel that if we turn this down there may not be another chance.

“Holidaymakers walking around the walls have to look at that monstrosity. It doesn’t do Berwick any favours.

“In any case, the decision will be taken by the county council. We can only voice our opinion.”

Berwick Civic Society has lodged a formal objection to the plan.

Zoreen Hill, chairman, said: “We feel this is a poor plan for this historic area and would be really detrimental to the look of this area.”

She felt more information was needed about the height of the proposed homes in relation to the ramparts. She also expressed concern about ‘planning creep,’ which would set a bad precedent.

Concerns were also raised about a loss of parking and possible congestion in the Palace Green area.

The original permission was for 12 parking spaces for the six dwellings.