Plans for open space approved despite strong objections

Open space in Churchill Avenue, Whitley Bay, where plans for new flats have been approved.
Open space in Churchill Avenue, Whitley Bay, where plans for new flats have been approved.
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Residents have lost their battle against having apartments built on open land on their estate.

Campaigners in Churchill Avenue, Cherrytree Gardens and Firtree Avenue, in Whitley Bay, have battled against plans for development on the land at Charlton Court.

But on Tuesday, members of North Tyneside Council’s planning committee approved proposals for 13 apartments on the north west corner of the green space.

Committee members were told that the two blocks of two-storey buildings would be used by adults with learning difficulties.

Previous plans by Home Group had been reduced in scale following public consultation, but the latest plans still failed to gain any support from residents with 123 letters of objection submitted to the council.

Complaints were raised about the loss of open space, impact on landscape, inadequate drainage, inappropriate design while the general development was ‘unwelcome’.

Speaking at the meeting, resident Gary Legg said: “Why this site? There are alternatives out there, a lot of brownfield sites.

“I’m sure there are buildings suitable, one of them is the old police station in Whitley Bay.

“The national planning framework says open space and playing fields should not be built on unless the open space is surplus to requirements, which it isn’t.

“If this land goes there is nothing for our kids to play on.”

He added that to get to the nearest open space, children would have to cross busy roads.

“Some play areas are hidden away down dark alleys,” said Mr Legg. “There are kids hanging around drinking, smoking, smashing glasses.

“This is the only area where children are safe.”

Teresa Snaith, of Home Group, said: “We’ve worked with North Tyneside Council for two years on this site. We looked a three or four other sites which were not suitable.

“There is a high need for this type of accommodation. It will allow people with learning disabilities to remain in the community they have been brought up in.

“We would work with the local community to make sure whatever we did on the site was acceptable.

“It is a concern people are objecting to it but if this is an elected site and we have done a lot of consultation work with residents and worked with the council, we have a feeling this is the right development.”

The committee was told that the area of land had been included in the council’s emerging Local Plan for housing.

Members voted ten to two in favour of the plans.

Speaking in favour, Coun John O’Shea said: “If it hadn’t have been included in the Local Plan I would have been against it but because it’s in the emerging Local Plan this is designated for housing.”

However, Coun Ed Hodson said: “I cannot see how there was so much effort made to sell the scheme to local people yet not one single person agrees to it.

“If so many people are against it surely this is a bad start for the scheme to integrate with local people?”