A PLAN to build 43 new houses in Hexham has been refused after a lengthy debate.

On Tuesday, members of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee discussed whether the proposal from Jomast Developments for the land north of Eilansgate should be approved.

Planning officers at the council had recommended that they should refuse the application, despite it receiving outline planning permission in January 2016. But officers explained that the “very special circumstances”, required to build housing on green belt land, which were met in 2016, had changed.

At the time, the area was down as a deleted green belt site in the core strategy, which has now been withdrawn, and the new emerging core strategy does not allocate that land for housing.

In addition, at the time the 30 per cent affordable housing allocation offered by the developer was above the target of 15 per cent which was in place at the time. However, the target for Hexham is now 30 per cent, meaning there is no addition being offered by the developer.

The only other special circumstance was considered to be that funding from the sale of the site would be directly invested into Hexham Golf Club and Tynedale Athletic Association, which border the site and jointly own it.

Helen Ord, a resident of Kingsgate Terrace in Hexham, spoke in objection to the plans and urged members to look at the relationship between the sports clubs and those supporting the application. “A large number of the supporters live well outside of the Tynedale area,” she said.

However Chris Fletcher committee member at Tynedale Athletics Association, was one of those speaking in favour of it. She said: “It is extremely frustrating to be back here three years later having received unanimous approval three years ago.” She added there were “critical things” which the sports clubs were relying on the funding for.

However, there was confusion over why a section 106 agreement – an agreement between the council and the developer to offer benefits to the community – would be necessary for the sports clubs, given that they were the landowners and would receive money from the sale anyway.

Coun. Rupert Gibson said: “There are two private landowners selling their land to a developer. Why don’t they just get the proceeds like anybody else?”

But planning officers explained the benefit to the clubs through a section 106 agreement was the only possible reason that development could be supported on the green belt.

However. Coun. Jeff Gobin said: “We have got an ideal opportunity here. Where else have we got 30 per cent much needed affordable houses? On top of that, the last time it was discussed it was all agreed that this would go to much-needed sports facilities.” He proposed a deferral of the application while issues with the Section 106 agreement were clarified, but was voted down.

Coun. Trevor Thorne said: “I believe the special circumstances have gone. There are circumstances there but are they enough to build on the green belt? I don’t think they are.”

The application was rejected by a majority of eight votes.