Decision delayed on controversial flats plan

First published in News by

COUNCILLORS have delayed a decision on whether to grant planning permission for a controversial housing development at the second time of asking.

Developer Tim Wilks has applied to build five flats and one studio apartment on derelict land in Pendower Street, Darlington.

At a meeting of Darlington Borough Council’s planning committee, on Wednesday (December 12), members spent more than an hour hearing arguments for and against the proposal, agreeing to carry out a site visit before making a final decision.

Two years ago, the committee rejected an application from Mr Wilks for eight flats on the site, a decision upheld by the Planning Inspectorate.

A scaled-down application was then submitted, although this still drew 32 letters of objection from nearby residents.

One objector referred to the proposal as a “monstrosity”, with opponents to the scheme keen to see family homes built on the site, rather than one-bedroom flats.

Planning officers recommended the proposed three-storey building for approval, saying that the development was more ‘traditional’ than what had been put forward previously.

But this cut no ice with objectors, who raised concerns about a number of issues, including a potential loss of privacy, car parking and the risk of flooding problems from nearby Cocker Beck.

Objector Rachel Stocker (CORR) said: “We are not NIMBYs, we would welcome an appropriate development on this land.

“We need family housing, not horrible little one-bedroomed flats.”

Other words of objection came from John Curry, from the Westbrook residents’ association, and one of the council’s two ward members for Northgate, Eleanor Lister.

John Taylor, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said there was an assumption that pile driving works would be needed if the development was approved.

He said this was premature and the development, if approved, would proceed in accordance with the ground conditions.

Committee member Alan Macnab (CORR) raised concerns about the possible impact of flooding and asked whether there could be a repeat of the situation in Newcastle earlier this year, when a block of flats had to be demolished as a result of sustained rainfall.

The council’s development manager Roy Merritt noted that the Environment Agency had not objected to the plan.

Committee chairman Paul Baldwin moved the officers’ recommendation, but this was not seconded.

There was brief confusion over what would happen if no agreement was reached either way, before the decision to carry out a site visit broke the deadlock.

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