Morpeth North Residents Action Group Objections

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Morpeth North Residents Action Group Objections

The Morpeth North Residents Action Group wish to object to the above planning application for the following reasons:

Objection 1

The proposed development is considered to be an EIA development and should therefore be accompanied by an Environmental Statement. The application should not be determined until this is submitted. Consultation and determination of the application should be postponed until this is available.

Objection 2

The application does not include all the requisite baseline surveys, assessments or evidence to allow consultees to fully consider the application or for the local planning authority to determine the application. Consultation and determination of the application should be postponed until this is available.

Objection 3

The application fails to provide the necessary commitment to meet the marginal costs associated with infrastructure, affordable housing, education, community facilities, the country park, sewerage and public transport caused by the development. Consultation and determination of the application should be postponed until this is available.

Objection 4

The application fails to meet the tests of the saved policies of Castle Morpeth Borough Council Local Plan and the NPPF. As such the application should be refused.

Details of the objections are provided below.

Objection 1

The applicant submitted a request for a screening opinion dated the 10th of October 2014. NCC responded dated 21/11/15. We are of the opinion that this screening response fails to take into account the potential significance of the environmental impacts arising from the proposed development. The predicted impact of the development on Heritage Assets is stated by the applicant as “likely to be extensive and will remove any surviving archaeological remains in areas subject to foundation and service excavations”. This is only one of the thematic areas which it is considered merit full environmental impact assessments.

We are of the view that Northumberland County Council has failed to determine the request for a screening opinion in accordance with the regulations. The application site contains vulnerable and extensive environmental and heritage assets. The council acknowledge that the site and the application proposal falls within the definition of Schedule 2, however the council has failed to arrive at the correct conclusion with regard to the site being considered a ‘sensitive area’. There is no evidence that the council in arriving at its opinion carried out the necessary dialogue with the required ‘consultation bodies’.

The council’s failure to screen the development as an EIA has a number of consequences:

  • the public have been denied access to environmental information. We are of the view that the councils failure to screen the application as an EIA means that the public who will be adversely affected by the development do not have sufficient time or information to be able to express a considered view on the proposals. As such the actions of the council fail to meet the requirements placed on the council by the Aarhus Convention

  • Determining the application as not an EIA means that during the gestation period and in advance of the submission of the application, the public have been denied the opportunity to

    • thoroughly examine baseline surveys, or to challenge assessment methods and significance thresholds

    • comment on the scope of the surveys, assessment methods and significance thresholds

    • provide additional survey information

We would wish the application to be withdrawn, for the council to require a scoping opinion to be sought and for any resubmission to be accompanied by an Environmental Statement.

In the event that the council fails to meet its obligations under the EIA Regulations or the Aarhus Convention then we reserve the right to challenge the validity of any planning permission.

Objection 2

The residents are of the view that Northumberland County Council has failed in its statutory duties with respect to the validation of the application. The application is incomplete – residents and consultees are unable to provide timely, full or considered representations. The submission does not include an EIA, a Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) and the necessary details of the financial contributions proposed to be made by the applicant.

The omission of the EIA is evidenced above.

The absence of a Flood Risk Assessment means that consultees have not been able to examine proposals for removal of flood risk. The Environment Agency recommend that a planning application should be refused unless a FRA is submitted.

The heads of terms submitted with the application is acknowledged by the applicant to be incomplete in that it suggests that only limited financial contributions will be made too much needed local facilities. Not only do the heads of terms fail to commit to adequate funding of the additional facilities needed by the new residents, but the application submission is wholly incomplete and unsound in assessing this aspect.

Objection 3

The submission fails to consider the adverse impacts arising from the proposed housing on education, health, social and community facilities.

We are of the view that the applicant should be required to fully assess the financial consequences of the development on these facilities and that this should be undertaken in consultation with the residents of Morpeth. Revised heads of terms should be submitted to ensure that all marginal additional costs to the public sector arising from the development are fully funded by the applicant.

We are of the view that these are material considerations affecting the responses of consultees and to the determination of the application. As such we are of the view that any determination of the application would be premature without these facts being in the public domain and being the subject of full consultation.

Objection 4

All planning applications must be determined by the local planning authority in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. In arriving at a decision the local planning authority are required to comply with Section 38 (6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and the relevant TCP Acts.

Annex A of the NPPF Paragraph 215 outlines that the weight to be given to relevant policies in existing plans is dependent upon the degree of consistency with the NPPF. The closer the policies align with the Framework, the greater the weight that may be given to them.

The development plan for the purposes of deciding this application is the Castle Morpeth Borough Local Plan (CMBLP 2003). The council saved a number of the policies from the plan and these remain part of the development plan until superseded.

The applicant has failed to demonstrate that the proposed development is in accordance with the relevant saved CMBLP polices and the NPPF. As such we object on the basis that the development is not in accordance with the policies and should be refused planning permission for the following reasons:

  1. C1 Settlement boundaries and MC1 Morpeth Settlement Boundary

Policy C1 Settlement Boundaries outlines the county wide policy and states that;

Boundaries are drawn to identify the limits to settlements and are defined on the proposals map insets. Development in the open countryside beyond settlement boundaries will not be permitted unless the proposals can be justified as essential to the needs of agriculture or forestry or are permitted by policies H8, H16, E1, E4, E5, E10, E11, E12, E14, E15”.

Policy MC1 is specific to Morpeth and is defined on the proposals map. The proposed development lies entirely outside the settlement boundary. The submitted application makes reference to fact the application is ‘out-with’ the settlement boundary but does provide sufficient evidence as to why it should be granted permission. Policy C1 states that a proposal would only be permitted if it is in line with policies H8, H16, E1, E4, E5, E10, E11, E12, E14, E15. Of these policies H8 is the only one referenced in the planning statement.

The policy is consistent with the NPPF which aims to prevent urban sprawl. The Green Belt polices within the NPPF and the CMBLP seek to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment. It is acknowledged that the settlement boundaries are dated – however the piecemeal development outside of the settlement boundary is not in accord with the NPPF.

The NPPF provides clear guidance as to the defining of boundaries using physical features that are readily recognisable and likely to be permanent. The ancient woodland to the west of Lancaster Park is a recognisable physical feature that should remain the western extent of the town.

The application is contrary to Policy C1 and MC1 and should be refused.

  1. C3 Areas of High Landscape Value and MC2 Areas of High Landscape Value

It is considered that Policies C3 and MC2 are consistent with the NPPF. Therefore the development proposals should be tested against these local plan policies.

The application submission recognises the Area of High Value Landscape. The Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment on Page 24 states that;

The proposed development site does not currently sit within the Green Belt but is within an Area of High Landscape Value, although little weight is now given to this designation due to the fact that its definition is not based on any robust or consistent assessment of landscape value (see section 6.7.3). As a consequence, the Northumberland Full Draft Plan (December 2014) confirms that the designation of the AHLV will not be taken forward”.

It is unsound of the applicant to give little weight to the land being within the AHLV. The local plan policies C3 and MC2 are consistent with the NPPF. Paragraph 109 of the NPPF states that;

The planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by protecting and enhancing valued landscapes”.

The Northumberland Key Land Use Impact Study (Landscapes Potentially Requiring Additional Protection) states that;

The 2003 Local Plan defined extensive AHLVs in several locations within the district. These were defined under saved Policy C3 as river valleys, the coast, country houses with parkland, the upland fringes, and a number of specific landscape features. The associated policy justification does not give any detailed rationale for the selection of these area, other than they are “important to their particular locality and to the county as a whole in terms of their special character and greater than average visual quality”

In disregarding the landscape designation the applicant is ‘cherry picking’ those saved policies to apply and those not to apply. The rationale for policy MC2 is that the Lancaster Park Estate does not obtrude onto the skyline to any appreciable extent. It is our contention that the proposals and the new development of housing will not only irreversibly damage the intimate local landscape but will intrude into valued skylines. The Borough and County councils have historically acknowledged the need to protect unspoilt vistas and skylines around the town and it remains our view that these vistas and skylines must be protected.

The application is contrary to Policy C2 and MC3 and should be refused.
  1. C9 Sites of Nature Conservation Importance, Local Nature Reserves

Policy C9 of the local plan is consistent with the policies outlined in the NNPF. Because the policy is consistent with the NPPF the development proposals should be tested against the principles and objects of the local plan policy. The applicant has carried out some surveys but these are incomplete seeming both scant and haphazard particular with regard to protected species. We are of the view that based on the limited surveys carried out the impact on protected species has the potential to be significant. The scope of the survey in ignoring invertebrates except for a mention that there are not ‘dingy skippers’ demonstrates the lack of understanding of the local ecology and natural environment.

We are of the view that the council is in error in determining that the application is not an EIA. In the absence of an EIA the failure to carry out full baseline surveys, and the failure to agree sensitivity thresholds we find the ecological submission incomplete and unsound in its conclusions.

The applicant has included targeted mitigation within the development. However this should not be entertained as it mask the potential true impacts on protected species to say nothing of the many biodiversity plan species that will be adversely impacted. The applicant has failed to demonstrate that the integrity of the SNCI will be safeguarded

Policy C9 outlines that;

The council will not permit development which would affect the integrity of local nature reserves (LNR’s), sites of nature conservation importance (SNCI's) or regionally important geological or geomorphological sites (RIG'S), either directly or indirectly, unless it can be demonstrated that the development is of overriding importance and no alternative is available.

In the absence of details that irrevocably demonstrate that the impact on SNCI’s and LNR’s is acceptable, then the precautionary principle indicates that the application should be refused as contrary to policy C9.
  1. C12 and MC6 Wildlife Corridors

Policy C12 and MC6 of the local plan are consistent with the policies outlined in the NNPF. The applicant submission fails to undertake any assessment of the wildlife corridors within the site and in particular the river corridor. The surveys fail to understand the functionality of the corridors, the dominant species and the sensitivities of the corridor and species to changes. We find the surveys incomplete and the applicant’s conclusion that there will be no impact to be unsound. The applicant has submitted no details for the way in which the corridor will be managed, the development will be mitigated, or the way in which the potential adverse impacts of additional recreational pressure on protected species will be managed.

The application has the potential to adversely affect the integrity of the Wildlife Corridor and as such in the absence of evidence to the contrary the application should be refused as contrary to policies C12 and MC6

  1. C15 Trees in the Countryside and Urban Areas

Policy C15 of the local plan is consistent with the policies outlined in the NNPF. The Policy states that developers will be required to

Protect existing trees and hedgerows on sites where development is in progress”.

The submitted tree survey states that

Once all of the proposed site layout decisions are finalised and the technical details to enable the construction prepared, an Arboricultural Method Statement and Tree Protection Plan should be produced”.

It is our contention that without these supplementary documents the council cannot understand the full impact of the development on existing trees and hedgerows. The submitted layout with the outline application is indicative only – it is not binding on either the council or the applicant. Even though it shows the retention of existing trees and hedgerows these cannot be assured to be safeguarded with the outline application. We remain of the view that in the absence of detailed areas being identified for housing and agreed alignments, levels and designs for the roadways the application may lead to the loss of significant trees and hedgerows.

The application has the potential to adversely affect trees and hedgerows and as such in the absence of evidence to the contrary the application should be refused as contrary to policy C15

  1. C16 the Green Belt

Policy C16 of the local plan is consistent with the policies outlined in the NNPF. The proposed development is not in conflict with the saved local plan. However a significant proportion of the site falls within the proposed green belt extension as set out in the emerging Northumberland Core strategy.

We remain of the view that the development of the site will compromise the integrity of the proposed green belt and will frustrate its main purpose; prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open, the over-riding principle being that new development in the Green Belt should preserve the openness of the Green Belt and reflect the purpose of its designation.

  1. S2 Out of Town Retail Development

Policy S2 of the local plan is broadly consistent with the policies outlined in the NNPF. However the NPPF is clear that out of town retail developments should be subject to sequential test. The combined floorspace indicates that a sequential test is required – NPPF paragraph 26.

The application is incomplete and does not contain the requisite sequential test and as such should not be determined until this is submitted. Should the applicant not submit a sequential test then the application should be refused as contrary to the NPPF and policy S2.

  1. H1 and MH1 Housing Land Supply

The applicants planning statement refers to a recent appeal decision at Stobhill. A position was agreed between Northumberland County Council and the appellants at Stobhill that policy H1 is ‘out of date’.

The planning statement makes the claim that because of this agreement, policy H1 is not relevant to this application. We understand the appellants and the councils position with reference to the appeal however we believe that the applicant has been erroneous in arriving at the conclusion that because the policy may not consistent with (paragraph 47 and 49 of) the NPPF the site west of Lancaster Park is appropriate for development. The applicant’s contention is that the site is acceptable as it constitutes sustainable development.

The proposed development cannot be undertaken in a logical, systematic or planned way. The applicant’s site layout is discordant and expensive – having to take account of significant archaeological and environmental restrictions, highway limitations and in order to fund the housing needing to develop unsuitable and not needed commercial operations. The indicative layout represents the urban sprawl of Morpeth. The proposals are on land that is designated as an Area of High Value Landscape. The pedestrian and cycling links into Lancaster Park are not secured, not controlled by the local authority, will breach wildlife corridors – which has not been assessed.

The assertion in the planning statement that there is a need for more housing may be correct but it is our contention that other sites in Morpeth are delivering the needed supply of homes and that there are other sites which can be developed with less environmental cost and more community benefit. There is no evidence that the site can be developed economically having regard to the environmental restrictions and as such there is no evidence that the site or the planned uses are economically viable.

We would draw the council’s attention to two recent developments that demonstrate how housing supply is being met.

St Andrews Garden is a development North of Morpeth on the former Northgate Hospital site. It has 225 Homes including 45 affordable homes - (13/02105/OUT)

St Georges Development is located north of the Town centre. The approved application is for:

    • Detailed application for 119 new homes (Phase A)

    • Outline application for up to 256 new homes (Phase B and C)

    • Onsite affordable housing provision

    • New public open space

    • New tree and hedgerow planting

    • Improved vehicular access via Dark Lane (A197) and a new signalised junction

    • Renovation and retention of existing structures including the main water tower, chapel and the central administration block

The application site for residential development has not been demonstrated to be either an environmentally or economically sustainable use of the site – use of the car, low carbon economy, protection of heritage assets, requiring good design etc. Having regard to the NPPF we are of the view that notwithstanding the availability of the site following the construction of the Northern bypass the application as proposed is not sustainable as defined by the NPPF and as such should be refused
  1. H2 Phasing

The applicant has failed to provide evidence that there is capacity in the local health, social, community and environmental infrastructure to accommodate the proposed development without adverse impacts that are significant. The applicant has made no assessment of these needs neither have they made any commitment to meet the marginal costs associated with upgrading the infrastructure and community etc. facilities. Because the impact on local facilities has the potential to be ‘significant’ the application should be accompanied with an Impact Assessment with these aspects ‘scoped in’.

The design and access statement submitted in support of the application suggests that the phasing of the development is likely to be as follows:

      • Access build out: within 12 months

      • TRSA build out: within 18 months

      • Residential build out: 6 years (based on 46- 47 units per year)

      • Country Park: within the build years 4-5

It is important to note that the applicant provides no assurances of this timetable, nor any guarantees. The applicant fails to demonstrate how even this indicative phasing will impact on local services. There is no assessment on the impact on school places and health facilities. It is our contention that those housing developments which have already been granted permission will place strain on the existing education provision. The applications failure to assess the potential impact does not allow the council to make an informed decision on the impact of the development on these services.

The applicant has failed to assess the potential impacts arising from the phasing of the development, in the absence of the necessary assessments and commitment to meet the marginal costs the approval of the development would prejudice the sustainability of social, education and health facilities within Morpeth, the application should be refused as contrary to NPPF polices on sustainability and phasing.

  1. H8 Affordable Housing

The saved local plan policy is consistent with the NPPF. Therefore the development proposals should assess the need for affordable Housing. The development proposes that 30% of the housing will be designated as affordable housing. We are concerned that the details of the deliverability and quality of this housing have yet to be submitted and as such we reserve our position on the affordable housing. We would wish to be provided with further details and have the right to be consulted on the tenure, mix and availability of this housing.
  1. H15 New Housing Developments

Policy H15 of the Local Plan considers that new housing developments should be assessed against selected criteria. It is considered that these criteria are consistent with the NPPF. We are of the view that the application should be tested against this local plan policy. A thorough analysis and review of the application and its supporting reports has found that the applicant has failed to test the development against policy H15. With reference to the criteria outlined in policy H15 the development is not in accordance with the following criteria

ii. The proposal conflicts with local land uses

vii. A detailed landscape scheme has not been submitted in support on the application

viii. Sustainability measures have not been considered at all including energy from sustainable sources

x. the development is removed from local services and therefore will result in over reliance of the car.

xii. A flood risk assessment has not been submitted in support of the application

xvi. A section 106 agreement has not been agreed and therefore the council cannot fully consider the implications of the application.
The proposed development is contrary to six of the criteria and as such should be refused as contrary to Policy H15
  1. Policy E5 Employment

It is considered that the saved criteria based local plan policy is consistent with the NPPF. However the planning submission fails to test the development proposals against the relevant criteria. We have carried out this test and find that;

i. No sequential test has been submitted to show that other sites are more suitable for the employment uses

ii. The character and appearance of the countryside will be harmed

iii. The amenity of local residents in Lancaster Park has not been considered

iv. The future impact on sites of archaeological or nature conservation interest has not been adequately considered. The outline application does not provide enough information or evidence to demonstrate that the proposed mitigation will be either sufficient or capable of being fully funded.
The proposed development is contrary to four of the criteria and as such should be refused as contrary to Policy E5

  1. Policy E9 Hotels

It is considered that the saved criteria based local plan policy controlling hotel development is consistent with the NPPF. Policy E9 allows for hotels to be built provided certain criteria outlined in the plan are satisfied. The hotel forms part of the TRSA and in a location that does not satisfy the criteria based policy. In addition it will cause detriment to the amenity of local residents by virtue of significant impacts arising from noise, odour, airborne particulates and light pollution.

The proposed development is contrary to Policy E5 and as such should be refused.

  1. R4 Children’s Play

It is considered that this saved policy is consistent with the NPPF. The development proposals should be tested against the local plan policy. The application makes reference to the provision of children’s play area. The applicants failure to provide a defined layout for the wider development means that the council is unable to determine whether the proposed play areas meet the tests of the policy, namely to;

  1. Allow supervision by adults in the surrounding area, and be landscaped to provide a good and safe environment for play;

  2. Not cause nuisance to residents in neighbouring properties;

  3. Provide that access and traffic do not cause a danger to children.

The proposed development is contrary to Policy R4 and as such should be refused.
  1. R8 Public Footpaths and Bridleways and T6 Provision for Cyclists/Cycle Routes

Policy R8 is consistent with the NPPF and therefore the planning application should be tested against the policy.

The proposed access routes into Morpeth through Lancaster Park are outlined in the application as being along existing informal paths. These paths are muddy tracks through the woodland.

The Design and Access Statement identifies that;

Several informal footpaths lead from the western edge of Lancaster Park through Scotch Gill Wood to the edge of the site”.

The Landscape Strategy Plan identifies that the proposed development would establish new pedestrian links through a woodland belt in a manner not impacting existing trees. The woodland belt is identified in the Castle Morpeth District Local Plan (February 2003) as being a Site of Nature Conservation Importance (Policy MC4).

To effectively establish pedestrian links they need to be well maintained and safe for all residents travelling the route.

Lighting should generally be provided on all routes where cycling or walking can be expected after dark. Lighting will be particularly important on commuter routes and routes forming part of a safe routes to school network, where usage is sustained throughout the longer periods of darkness associated with the winter months.

The main purpose of lighting footpaths and cycle tracks after dark is:

  • to show the direction that the route takes;

  • to enable cyclists and pedestrians to orientate themselves;

  • to detect the presence of other cyclists, pedestrians and other hazards and to discourage crime against people and property.

The application does not provide any commitment that these links will be lit, we believe that there is an irreconcilable conflict in these proposals. If lighting is provided along these paths it would be damaging to the ecology of the woodland. If it is not then this would compromise the safety of users. It is our view that any resident would be discouraged from using these links into Lancaster Park and Morpeth if there were no lighting. The application does not assess this conflict – this reinforces our views that the application is incomplete and should not be determined until full information and assessments are provided. It is not possible to determine an outline application without full details to determine if protected (and other significant) species would be adversely impacted by the indicative new cycleways and footpaths

In the absence of evidence to demonstrate that safe and sustainable public footpaths, bridleways and cycleways can be provided without compromising the integrity of SNCI’s or protected species then the application should be refused as contrary to policy R8.

  1. RE5 Surface Water run-off and Flood Defences

Policy RE5 is consistent with the NPPF. A Flood Risk Assessment is required for developments that exceed thresholds and are likely to increase the risk of flooding. The site falls within those categories of developments for which a FRA is required. Although the applicant has submitted proposals for foul sewerage the submission does not include a FRA.

We are of the view that this omission is sufficiently serious for the application to be considered invalid and consideration placed ‘on hold’ pending submission. The Environment Agency (EA) is clearly concerned about the potential hydrological consequences of the development: In their response to the applicant (dated 10th February 2015)

“…the proposed development site is located within flood zone 1 and as such, considered to be at the lowest risk of fluvial flooding. However the proposed scale of development may present risks of flooding on-site and/or off-site if surface water runoff is not effectively managed. Footnote 20 of paragraph 103 of the NPPF requires applicants for planning permission to submit a Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) when development on this scale is proposed in such locations.

An FRA is vital if the local planning authority is to make informed planning decisions. In the absence of an FRA, the flood risks resulting from the proposed development are unknown. The absence of an FRA is therefore sufficient reason in itself for a refusal of planning permission.”

In the absence of a flood risk assessment (FRA), we would object to an application for this proposal and recommend refusal of planning permission until a satisfactory FRA had been submitted.”

The watercourse to the east of the site, Scotch Gill, is a tributary of the Wansbeck and is too small to have generated flood zones for the flood map. This does not mean that fluvial flooding from the watercourse will not occur. The FRA will need to consider this risk as well as all other sources of flood risk.”

(it) is particularly important to ensure the rate of water entering the Wansbeck is not increased. We would not agree to a proposal which reduced the standard of protection afforded to Morpeth by the new flood alleviation scheme.

We would encourage the use of infiltration measures wherever possible and also for the design to incorporate a number of water storage areas which would outfall at smaller rates at numerous locations rather than one single larger discharge.”

The submission is clearly deficient in not providing the necessary information as required by the NPPF. In addition the EA have expressed concern that

You will also need to demonstrate appropriate maintenance and management of the whole scheme for the lifetime of the development. Furthermore, any new outfall structure on the Wansbeck would need consent from the Environment Agency. Any works affecting the flow in the Scotch Gill will need separate consent from Northumberland County Council”

The applicant has failed to provide a flood risk assessment, or the assurances required by the EA.

We are of the view that the council do not have sufficient information to be confident that the application meets the tests of the saved policy, namely;

A) Will lower the risk of flooding;

B) There will be no unacceptable risk of flooding;

C) There will be no unacceptable increase in risk of flooding elsewhere, as a result of the development; and,

D) Appropriate mitigation measures can be put in place to minimise the risk of flooding and these measures can be controlled by appropriate planning conditions or a section 106 agreement can be secured.

In particular the applicant has failed to provide the necessary assurances that all marginal direct and indirect costs associated with the flooding implications of the scheme will be fully funded. In this way the scheme failed not only the test of the policy RE5 but the NPPF and should be refused.

  1. RE6 Service Infrastructure

This saved policy is consistent with the NPPF. With regard to the capacity of the development to connect to mains sewerage the EA has expressed considerable concern about the proposal as the entire development proposal is dependent on;

..the use of private sewage disposal within a publicly sewered area. This being the case, in addition to planning permission, the non-mains drainage proposals would also require an Environmental Permit under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010, from the Environment Agency (letter from EA dated 10th February 2015).

In so far as we know the applicants have failed to yet submit the application for a permit. We believe that the council should not determine the application until there is certainty that the private sewerage non-mains treatment can be permitted and the environmental impacts are not significant. The EA have stated their considerable reservations about the proposal;

“…we have significant concerns whether the environmental capacity of the area can accommodate further non-mains connections.”

The long term sustainability of the applicant’s proposal is questioned by the EA;

Even should a non-mains system be permitted, we consider that the developer should seek to connect their development to a public foul sewer as soon as is practicable.”

The applicant requested a screening opinion for the development in October 2014. This was in advance of the questions and concerns raised by the EA. We are of the opinion that the full implications of the environmental impacts arising from the development could not have been disclosed to Northumberland Council in the request for the opinion. We would therefore question the soundness of the screening opinion issued by the council in November 2014 that the development is not an EIA.

Connections to the mains sewerage system are undertaken in accordance with the relevant EIA regulations when carried out by Statutory Water Undertakers. However, the environmental impacts of development and connections to non mains systems are not undertaken by statutory water undertakers and so must be regulated by the planning and permitting systems.

We are concerned that the council has not received the necessary legal assurances required by the EA

“…sewerage systems serving multiple premises need to have appropriate legally binding agreements in place for their operation and maintenance. Where no such agreement is in place, or a dispute arises as to the responsibilities of individual householders, this frequently leads to the system not being properly operated or maintained.

Not only has the applicant failed to demonstrate that the non mains system will not have any significant adverse impacts on the environment but the application also fails to indicate that the scheme is commercially viable. We are concerned that the applicant will receive planning permission and then discover that the necessary private infrastructure is only viable with increased densities and levels of development. “Development creep” is a real prospect for this scheme and we are of the view that the economic viability of the scheme to fund the non mains scheme must be proven in advance of and consent being given,

The environmental consequences of new private pumping stations, new waste water treatment works have not been sufficiently assessed within the applicant’s submission. In the absence of significant deficiencies in the submitted information and assessments we are of the view that any determination of the application is premature.

  1. MR1 Informal Country Park

The area allocated for the informal country park in the local plan is south of the river Wansbeck. The area set aside for the country park in the development proposals is not allocated on the proposals map as MR1. Nevertheless the applicant has referenced the policy

Although the application submission contains draft heads of terms this does not provide sufficient assurances that the proposed country park can be either established or maintained to the satisfaction of the local planning authority. Claims made by the applicant indicate that the country park has the potential to be both extensive and expensive. The park will be privately owned and managed; we are concerned about the failure of the applicant to demonstrate the long term economic viability of the country park proposal. We are also concerned about the long term management and development implications of what could in effect be a private exclusive park.

We do not believe that the benefits of the country park can be assured without the submission for a full business plan for its establishment and development, further we are of the view that any country park should be dedicated to the public in perpetuity with an endowment that is sufficient to fully fund all costs and public use. The applicant’s submission with regard to the Country Park is merely aspirational with no substance or delivery to underpin their claims.

  1. MC4 Sites of Nature Conservation Importance

The saved local Plan policy MC4 is consistent with the NPPF. The area marked MC4 on the local proposals map is to the east of the development site. It is classified as Ancient & Semi-Natural Woodland.

Trees and woodland classed as ‘ancient’ or ‘veteran’ are irreplaceable. Ancient woodland takes hundreds of years to establish and is considered important for its wildlife, soils, recreation, cultural value, history and contribution to landscapes.

While the development proposals do not propose residential or the TRSA to be built on this land the main pedestrian and cycle routes are proposed through the woodland.

Impacts of development nearby can include these effects on the trees and woodland, and the species they support:

  • compacting the soil around tree roots

  • breaking up or destroying connections between woodland and other habitats

  • reducing the amount of semi natural habitats (like parks) next to ancient woodland

  • changing the water table or drainage

  • increasing the amount of pollution, including dust

  • increasing disturbance to wildlife from additional traffic and visitors

  • increasing light pollution

  • increasing damaging activities like fly tipping, gardens encroaching into woodland, and the number of cats hunting birds and small mammals

  • changing the landscape character of the area

The development proposals do not provide sufficient information as to how these pedestrian and cycling links will conserve habitats, territories’ or protected species. In the absence of objective evidence to the contrary we are of the view that the precautionary principle should be applied and the application refused as contrary to policy MC4
  1. T5 Public Transport

The saved local Plan policy TR5 is consistent with the NPPF. The application makes the claim to be sustainable. It also makes reference to pedestrians using existing public transport links in Lancaster Park. The application also references the framework residential travel plan. The aspirations of this plan are laudable, however there is no evidence that the measures proposed will lead to any modal shift from that within Morpeth at present, levels of walking and cycling remain stubbornly low and the private car continues to dominate trips by Morpeth residents.

The development of the TRSA will actively encourage and promote the use of the site by private cars, HGV’s and fossil fuel based transport. The framework travel plan makes no mention of the service station being equipped with electric charging stations, operating as a public transport interchange, offering ‘co-voiturage’ facilities or in fact being in any way sustainable!

There is no commitment by the applicant to funding extensions to the public transport network, or to increasing the frequency of services. There is no commitment by the applicant to the use, adoption or promotion of low emission vehicles or to the promotion of renewable energy associated with transport use.

We are of the opinion that the applicant has failed to actively design the development to have sustainable modes of transport and mobility, the aspirations contained within the travel plans for the use of public transport cannot be secured, and the development will not be sustainable from the perspective of public transport and personal mobility.

The proposed new pedestrian links to public transport stops have the potential to adversely impact on protected species and habitats. As such we are of the opinion that although these links may be capable of being secured this will be at an unacceptable cost to wildlife.

The applicant has failed to demonstrate the ways in which the development will support public transport or secure sustainable patters of mobility.

  1. I2 Planning Obligations

The saved local Plan policy I2 is consistent with the NPPF. However the applicant has failed to adequately assess the potential impact on local services as set out above. The applicant has indicated the possible scope of the heads of terms. However there is no commitment to adequately finance the marginal additional costs imposed by the development for

  • Health centres, doctors, and hospitals

  • Nurseries, schools and further education.

  • The landscaping and country park

  • Conservation of the biodiversity habits, management of the open space

  • Management of the play facilities

It is critical to note that the affordable housing is not secured and cannot be guaranteed to be delivered as part of this scheme/ the scheme is seemingly so inadequately designed and prepared as that the applicant still does not know if they can finance the affordable housing. The heads of terms include the caveat that any provision is subject to site viability – in essence this is an empty promise

The application includes empty promises in the form of headline terms for a legal agreement that are not worth the paper they are written upon. As such the application should be not be determined until the applicant has demonstrated that all the marginal costs arising from the development can be funded and the 30% affordable housing will be delivered.

  1. NPPF

We are concerned that the design of the development fails to take account of some of the key polices of the NPPF.

We request that the local planning authority should take account of the sustainability aspects of the NPPF and would wish the following to be taken into account in the determination of the application;

Local planning authorities should adopt proactive strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change, taking full account of flood risk, and water supply and demand considerations (NPPF paragraph 94)The application does not take account of climate change

To help increase the use and supply of renewable and low carbon energy, local planning authorities should recognise the responsibility on all communities to contribute to energy generation from renewable or low carbon sources. (NPPF paragraph 97)The application includes no reference to renewable energy

By encouraging good design, planning policies and decisions should limit the impact of light pollution from artificial light on local amenity, intrinsically dark landscapes and nature conservation (NPPF paragraph para 125)The application includes no reference to controlling light pollution

The planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by protecting and enhancing valued landscapes. (NPPF paragraph para 109)

The proposed Waste Water Treatment works is located within the area of high landscape value – this is unnecessary and the impact has been understated – in part because the applicant has not undertaken a full EIA

In view of the above arguments the MNRAG formally request that the Northumberland County Council postpone determination of the planning application 15/01285/OUT because we have demonstrated that crucial documentation has been omitted from the application.

Should the County Council refuse our request, we reserve the right to appeal to the Secretary of State to determine if the application is an EIA development.

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