No homes for heroes: Dismay as Hartlepool councillors reject housing plans for veterans

Land to the rear of Seaton Lane, which has been earmarked for housing development.
Land to the rear of Seaton Lane, which has been earmarked for housing development.

PLANS for a new ‘village’ community that would provide vital homes for brave war veterans in Hartlepool have been blocked.

Developers sought permission to build 580 sustainable low-cost homes off Brenda Road in a development that would have created 120 jobs and homes for armed forces veterans, older people, first-time buyers and community facilities.

Geoff Lilley.

Geoff Lilley.

But councillors refused the development after worries it could have led to major employers Tata Steel and Caparo Forge, close to the site, being forced to leave town if the new residents complained about noise from the heavy industry.

There was also opposition from residents in the Seaton Lane area over the scale of the development including properties three and four-storeys high.

John Neville, chairman of the Hartlepool branch of the Royal British Legion, said there is a need for these kinds of homes for veterans.

He said: “Anything that is in support of veterans I am all for. I’m all for thinking about veterans in respect of housing people.”

John, 79, said he has had trouble to find a smaller house when he wanted to down-size from his current four-bedroomed home in the Owton Manor area of Hartlepool.

He said there is a need for more two-bedroomed bungalows after he has failed in attempts with housing groups to get a move to a smaller home.

He added: “There will be veterans in the same position as me and also veterans who are younger than I am.”

Hartlepool Borough Council’s economic development department raised the fears over the risk the scheme posed to jobs.

A report that went before the council’s planning committee said: “The future scenario is easy to see whereby residents of this proposed development will lodge noise complaints with a real potential to affect the operation of both these businesses and ultimately reduce their competitiveness in the global market place.

“This could easily result in the two businesses closing and relocating elsewhere in the UK or indeed even abroad.

“This would be disastrous to the local economy and would also send a highly negative message to other local businesses and other potential inward investors.

“Hartlepool is short of around 3,000 jobs in the local economy and therefore needs to achieve significant business growth, much of which will come from the Brenda Road area.

“It is therefore imperative that industry in the area is protected from major barriers to growth and this proposal certainly represents a more than significant impediment to achieving economic prosperity.”

But other council planning officers said the 11-hectare site is underused and the chance to boost Hartlepool’s five-year housing supply outweighed the fact the land was earmarked for employment.

They added noise assessments had been carried out and it was felt measures could be put in place to mitigate the noise to new housing.

But Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher said: “Clearly there is a real concern.

“Is the issue around economic development not being listened to?

“It’s not just about noise, it is also about supply chains and business land.”

Coun Geoff Lilley said: “This area of land is a buffer zone for residents and industry.

“These heavy industries close to the site may wish to expand and be a lot more active than they are now.”

The applicants Jersey-based Brenda Road Holdings proposed to demolish existing buildings on the site, create a 70-bed residential care home, 300 apartments with 24-hour care for people aged 55 and over, 80 homes intended for armed forces veterans, 80 houses and 80 apartments for carers.

The plan also included a community centre, shops, workshops and offices.

Spokesman Will Birch told councillors: “By creating a flagship scheme we feel we can create something Hartlepool can be truly proud of and serve as a model for other similar developments in the UK.”

But a petition from existing nearby residents said the development was out of keeping with the area, would add to congestion on Seaton Lane and Brenda Road and lead to loss of privacy.

Resident Alan Jordan said: “This development is unduly large and the design is totally out of character with the area.”

He added the land sits on a flood plain and said residents have suffered repeat flooding in the last few years.

Following the decision to refuse outline planning permission Mr Birch said the applicants would go away and consider what was said, but declined to comment further.