Hartlepool looks set to get sizably bigger after the largest housing development in years was given the initial go ahead by councillors.
Councillors yesterday granted planning permission to a developer to create a South West Extension of the town.
The new estate is planned to include 1,260 new homes, a new primary school, medical centre, shop, pub/restaurant, playing fields, open space and other infrastructure.
Full planning permission was granted for 144 houses at the north of the 97-hectare greenfield site behind the Fens estate and Brierton Lane.
And outline permission was granted for the remainder of the site.
It was despite numerous objections to the development including from residents, ward councillors, Greatham Parish Council, Hartlepool Civic Society and the Durham branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.
They included the impact on wildlife around Greatham Beck which runs through the site, flooding risk, the scale of the development and effect of extra traffic on the surrounding roads. During the two consultations held on the proposal there were 116 objections.
Robert Smith, chairman of the Fens Residents’ Association, raised a number of objections.
He said the development would undermine one of the main principles behind the scrapping of the Local Plan by the council, create a damaging oversupply of housing, and claimed it would leave residents open to the risk of flooding.
He said: “Recent events have proved just how close Greatham Beck can get to overflowing. Climate change will make matters worse.”
Our national planning system is totally unfit for purposeRobert Smith, Fens Residents Association
Ward councillor Alan Clark, who is not on the committee but spoke during the meeting, said: “When I was elected 17 months ago I made a promise to the people of Fens and Rossmere that I would stand with them and oppose this application.”
Coun Clark said he did not believe concerns raised by residents had gone away and added: “I am not convinced this type of housing as opposed to affordable and social housing is necessary for our town. “Also the close proximity of the pylons could have a negative impact on residents’ health and wellbeing.”
Coun Steve Gibbon, who is also not on the committee but spoke at the meeting, also raised concerns over flooding.
The residents’ association asked Persimmon to include a clay bund alongside the beck to protect homes in the Newark Road area.
But flood measures designed by the applicant, including increasing capacity of Greatham Beck and controls on the discharge into it, were praised by the council’s engineers, who deemed it a better solution.
The extension is outside the town’s development limits as defined by the 2006 Local Plan.
But council officers said as the council cannot currently show how it can meet the housing demand for the next five years, there was a presumption in favour of sustainable developments.
Peter Jordan, of Persimmon Homes, said they had worked hard to consult with residents and the council to try to address concerns.
The scale of the housing was reduced from more than 2,500 previously following local concerns.
He said: “We have come up with solutions to the local road network. We are utterly committed to an exemplar scheme to make the flooding situation significantly reduced.”
Mr Jordan added the size of the local centre had been designed just to serve the new estate in response to concerns from Greatham Parish Council that it could hit village services.
The developer will also make contributions including just over £2million towards secondary education, a £1.5million package of sustainable transport measures including a supported bus service, and £75,000 towards the maintenance of Greatham Creek Crossing.
A new road into the site from Brierton Lane will be created and another to the southern end from the A689.
Councillors voted eight to one in favour of the development, with Coun Springer voting against it.
Ray Martin-Wells said: “I realise we have to grow the town.”
Opposing it, Coun George Springer said there were many brownfield sites within Hartlepool that should be developed and said: “I feel you cannot really mitigate the impact on the wildlife.”
Councillors asked for details on a scheme to reduce the speed limit on the A689 around Greatham, a construction management plan and on a number of planned highway improvements to be brought back to them for approval to minimise the impact on existing residents.
Speaking after approval was granted, Mr Smith said: “We’ve finished up in this sorry situation because our national planning system is totally unfit for purpose.
“Huge housing targets are imposed from above on local authorities like Hartlepool and local realities are brushed aside.
“I don’t believe that any planning officer or planning committee member really believes that this development is necessary, or that it won’t cause damage to the town in the form of oversupply and traffic problems.
“They have simply been overwhelmed by the pressure from central government to achieve numbers needed for the south east, but it’s ridiculous for the North East where conditions are very different.”
He thanked ward councillors for their support and said the association would be ready to fight again when more detailed applications for the site are lodged.