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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ponteland care home gets the green light

A NEW 60-bed care home, which some fear will only add to the traffic congestion blighting Ponteland, has been given the go-ahead.
Ponteland Town Council aired its concerns as retirement home developers McCarthy and Stone applied for permission to redevelop the former first school site on North Road.
Lack of planning had already turned the village into a congestion black-spot, said Coun. Alan Mee.
"This is just one of a number of planned developments, and we have already had quite a lot of development in the village over the past 15 to 20 years.
"There has probably been a threefold increase in traffic in those years, but there has been little improvement of the surrounding roads."
The village had received little help in tackling the congestion that had arisen, he added.
And the council was concerned further problems would be created by the care home. Only 30 parking bays were proposed on site, so there was sure to be "spillage" on to North Road.
The impact on residents living in North Road and Grange Road would be unacceptable.
Coun. Mee said: "There is a big problem with the traffic entering and exiting the site too, because North Road is very narrow at that point.
"It is a blind exit on to a busy road that traffic, including HGVs, use to access Morpeth and beyond – we feel it is an accident waiting to happen."
Northumberland County Council received two letters in support of the scheme, and three against – including one from Ponteland Civic Society.
It pointed out the site concerned was the only large area of publicly-owned land remaining in the village.
Ponteland had grown rapidly in recent years, leading to an increased demand for community facilities.
Civic society member John Hague wrote: "Before any decision is made to sell off the whole of this central site, there needs to be an assessment of likely future community requirements."
The original planning brief drawn up for the site by the former Castle Morpeth planning authority had assumed it would be redeveloped for housing.
It required some 40 per cent of the properties should be affordable housing to help young people set up home in Ponteland.
Mr Hague said existing establishments already provided 130 units for the elderly, and plans in the pipeline would take that number up to 300.
"Such a concentration in a relatively small village, combined with the continuing lack of affordable housing would make it increasingly difficult to sustain a balanced community," he said.
Speaking on behalf of McCarthy and Stone, George Martin said the company had gone to considerable effort to ensure the care home would have minimal impact on its surroundings.
After consulting with local residents, the number of parking bays had been increased to 30, which would be more than adequate to meet demand.
"The people who move into this type of care home are often frail and in their mid 80s," he said.
"Less than a third come with vehicles and most give them up soon after moving in – the levels of car ownership and car movements are very low."
McCarthy and Stone didn't expect any spillage on to North Road, and it planned to improve the access to the site, beginning with better visibility.
Importantly, the new home would cater for the older, frailer elderly, addressing recognised housing needs both in Ponteland and Northumberland as a whole.
Eleven full-time jobs and three part-time jobs would be created.
Principal planning officer Mark Ketley said at two-and-a-half and three storeys high, the building would be taller than surrounding properties.
But a significant drop in ground level meant its roof line would sit at roughly the same height as the neighbouring Derwent Manor Care Home.
A member of the planning committee, Coun. Ingrid Whale, of Hexham east, said: "I feel it is a very good development and the car parking issue does not seem to be overwhelming."
The committee voted in favour of the scheme.