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CPRE Northumberland

Backland development in quiet village refused

Manor House, Birtley Manor House, Birtley

Birtley, near Wark in the North Tyne valley,... a pretty village of traditional stone houses. 'Off the beaten track' sums up its rural location, quiet and friendly its atmosphere, its houses spaced out along the road in a leisurely line. At the heart of the village lies the Manor House, a handsome listed building with origins dating back to the 1670s.

In 2016 a proposal to build two dwellings in a back garden abutting the Manor House was presented to Northumberland County Council. The development would have impacted on the setting of the listed building and looked out of place in relation to the rest of the village. Alerted by local resident Kristen McCluskie, the Acting Chair of CPRE Northumberland at that time, the late Professor Howard Elcock, made a site visit and decided to object to the proposal in support of local people who felt that the buildings would not be serving any local need and would harm the character of the village. Shortly afterwards, the application was withdrawn.

Recently we were again informed by Kristen that another application had been submitted, this time for one dwelling only. Our Treasurer, Les Ashworth, responded with a further objection in support, again, of local people, including the Parish Council. However, the Planning Officer dealing with the case felt that 'the scale and siting of the new dwelling' was appropriate and consistent with 'the Tynedale Local Plan and national planning policies'. But despite this recommendation for the new building, the Tynedale Local Area Committee rejected the application, citing as reasons their view that the village, by virtue of its out-of-the-way position was 'an unsustainable and inappropriate location for new housing', that the development 'would have an adverse impact upon and harm the setting of the adjacent Grade II listed building at Manor House', and that 'the proposal would be an inappropriate form of backland development that would result in harm to the character and appearance of the site and surrounding area'.

While each application is always judged on its merits and one should not attempt to generalise from one example, this is nevertheless an interesting decision that shows an independence of mind by this Local Area Committee, and a sympathy for the cherished character of traditional village life.



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