1. ITV Report

Morpeth County Hall development plans to be reviewed by government following opposition

The trees in the photograph are no longer present as they were felled by the County Council in January and ahead of the planning meeting in March. A council spokesman said at the time:

Controversial plans for a retail park, 200 houses and a school on the County Hall site in Morpeth have been called in by the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid.

Despite huge opposition, Northumberland County Council's planning committee voted to approve the applications earlier this month. The intervention from the Department for Communities and Local Government means that the applications will be determined following a public inquiry.

Opposition groups including the South Morpeth Coalition residents' group and the Morpeth Chamber of Trade welcomed the news. David Holden of the residents' group said:

“The opinions of more than 1,700 residents have finally been listened to. The resolutions passed at the planning committee were disgraceful and made a mockery of the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan, which was endorsed by nearly 4,000 residents last year with a 93% majority. Retail and housing are not suitable uses for this site which is clear in the plan. The principle of a new school is supported but the suggested location opposite a fast food drive thru is appalling. A report advising against such a conflict from public health scientists at Cambridge University was completely ignored at the planning committee meeting.”

– David Holden

Jacky Beesley, Chair of Morpeth Chamber of Trade said:

"I am so pleased that the Secretary of State has recognised that the applications should be determined independently. It was unsatisfactory that the Council was both the planning authority and the landowner that would benefit from approvals. The retail proposal was unpopular from the outset with businesses and residents and I am extremely disappointed that it was publicly backed by the Council Leader, Grant Davey, when there were only 8 letters of support. There are numerous opportunities to provide extra retail in the town centre which would support existing businesses. An edge of town retail park and a small market town do not mix."

– Jacky Beesley

Requests for the plans to be called in were submitted by the South Morpeth Coaltion and the Chamber of Trade.

Morpeth Town Council also wrote to the Secretary of State as did local politicians and two of Northumberland's MPs, Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Guy Opperman.

Here is the background to the plans Credit: ITV News
  • The Council's Strategic Planning Committee was 'minded' to approve (by a 9-5 margin in each case) the planning applications for a school, edge of town retail park and 200 homes on the 7th March, once the consultation deadline of 10th March expired and subject to referral to the Secretary of State, which would have involved the normal 21 day period for a 'call in' decision.
  • Gavin Barwell MP, the Minister of State for Housing and Planning wrote to the County Council on 7th March and placed an ‘Article 31 Holding Direction’ under Article 31 (c)(i) of the Town and Country (Development Management Procedure)(England) Order 2010. This prevented the County Council determining the applications until such time as the Minister has fully considered the decision and extends the normal 21 day period for a Call In decision.
  • The Secretary of State wrote to the County Council on 27th March to communicate his decision to call in the applications. Under section 77 of the 1990 Act, the applications shall be referred to him instead of being dealt with by the Local Planning Authority.
  • Final number of objections / letters of support - 1731 / 15 (99.1% / 0.9%)
  • Numbers include retail park, housing and school.
  • Strategic Planning Committee vote - in favour were 7 Labour, 1 Independent (Chair) and 1 Lib Dem. Against were 4 Conservatives and 1 Lib Dem.