Council faces £10k bill over joint service centre snub

NORTH Tyneside Council has been hit with a bill for up to £10,000 for unreasonably turning down one of its own planning applications.

The payout order comes as the council is cutting costs in a bid to make £24m worth of savings.

Work on building a multi-million-pound joint service centre on the old Whitley Bay Coliseum site is now getting started, but that is only because the Planning Inspectorate overturned the council’s decision to reject the plan.

The three-storey building will house a range of services including a library and tourist information centre, as well as council payment kiosks and medical consulting rooms.

The controversial plans for the centre were drawn up by Newcastle and North Tyneside Local Improvement Finance Trust Company, a joint venture made up of the borough council, Newcastle City Council, primary care trust chiefs and building firm Robertson North East, together with Whitley Bay Chamber of Trade.

The council’s involvement in the project failed to sway its planning committee members, however, and they gave it the thumbs-down in November – a decision since branded unreasonable by the Planning Inspectorate.

At that meeting, councillors voted 11 to ten against the scheme, citing a lack of parking spaces, fears for the safety of pedestrians and overdevelopment of the site as their reasons for rejecting it.

Those reasons were rejected as unsubstantiated by planning inspectors after they upheld an appeal against the decision last month.

That leaves the council facing a costs bill of up to £10,000, to be paid to the consortium of which it is part and also Prism Planning.

The chamber of trade launched a petition against the rejection of the scheme, attracting more than 1,000 signatures.

Chamber chairman Karen Goldfinch said: “It is regrettable that we had to go to so much trouble, time and money to get the final outcome.

“A lot of people, including the chamber and Whitley Bay residents, which we really appreciate, spent a lot of time, working and worrying about this proposal being knocked back.

“The money spent on this appeal could have been spent in so many other beneficial ways for the town.”

North Tyneside mayor Linda Arkley added: “This is great news for Whitley Bay, its residents and traders, who made it perfectly clear during extensive consultation that they wanted this facility in the town centre.

“It was incredibly disappointing when the project faced being shelved following the planning committee decision, but now we have to do everything we can to get on and deliver this for Whitley Bay.”