FURTHER concerns have been raised over a new housing development in Bellingham.

Plans for 64 affordable homes on the former auction mart site had been recommended for refusal by planning officers but they were approved by Tynedale Local Area Council planning committee in July last year.

The vote had been split before the committee's chair Cllr Trevor Cessford cast the deciding vote.

Following its approval, the plans were amended slightly and there will now be 63 homes built on the site by Karbon Homes, made up of 14 bungalows, 14 apartments, 15 houses and 20 care ready supported housing apartments. 

But Bellingham resident Jim Forster said the scheme was "totally oversized for a rural village" and argued the proposals "do not represent what was required" by people in the village.

He said there had been more demand for family homes and that people wanted the opportunity to purchase homes outright.

The homes built will be available for affordable rent, rent to buy, and shared ownership for older people.

Mr Forster said: "The folks of Bellingham deserve a scheme on that site, 100 per cent, but it has to be in keeping with the people of Bellingham and the village itself."

Bellingham Parish Council and 17 neighbours objected to the scheme.

However, Bellingham's county councillor John Riddle voted in favour of the development and told the Courant that he thinks the decision for it to go ahead was the right one.

"Personally, I would have liked less housing on there, some car parking and some extra care accommodation and maybe even some starter business units," he said. "That would have been my ideal. But that isn’t what came forward as a planning application.

"You can’t just refuse something because you think you can get something better. You’ve got to have a valid planning reason to refuse it."

He added: "My conscience is quite clear that I did the right thing in voting for it."

Speaking about how planning officers had recommended the plans be refused, Cllr Riddle said: "At the end of the day, planning officers make recommendations and members make the decision.

"That is as it always has been. It’s not unusual - the ones that come to committee are the ones that need to be decided by members."

Planning officers had said ahead of last year's committee meeting that while the site was allocated for residential development with an indicative capacity for 50-65 dwellings within the Northumberland Local Plan, they were concerned the proposals as submitted "are not felt to be entirely appropriate in this location and do not achieve an acceptable or sustainable form of development in terms of matters of design and amenity."

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Northumberland County Council has not issued a formal decision yet as a section 106 agreement, an agreement made between the council and a developer to ensure it makes contributions to the local community, is still being finalised.

Zoey Hawthorne, assistant director of development delivery at Karbon Homes, said they are "looking forward to starting work on this new development in Bellingham later in the year".

She said: "We’re passionate about providing more affordable homes in rural communities like Bellingham so that young people and families can continue to live there and that older people have access to good quality retirement living homes in a good location.

"During the planning process, we listened to feedback from local residents and adapted our plans in response.

"We’re currently in discussions with Northumberland County Council to agree a local lettings policy that will ensure local people will have priority access to the homes.

"We believe this development will be a great addition to the Bellingham community and give local people an affordable start on the housing ladder."