Developer withdraws disputed plans for 2,000-home Northumberland garden village

A developer that accused Northumberland County Council members and officers of trying to influence its head of planning to reverse his professional opinion on its proposal for a 2,000-home garden village on green belt has withdrawn its planning application for the scheme.

Dissington Garden Village: application withdrawn
Dissington Garden Village: application withdrawn

In March 2017, Lugano Developments secured a resolution to grant planning consent from Northumberland County Council for the 2,000-home Dissington Garden Village development. This was subject to the signing of a section 106 agreement.

The planning report on the application said the emerging Northumberland local plan core strategy "proposes the removal of approximately 80 hectares of the current application site i.e. the net development area, from the green belt, effectively forming a ‘window’ within the green belt, to facilitate development of the Dissington Garden Village".

Since the resolution to grant consent was agreed, however, a new council leader was elected, and the emerging local plan was withdrawn from the examination process.

In May last year, an open letter from Lugano addressed to Northumberland County Council, and copied to the areas’ MPs, contained a series of allegations of planning-related misconduct at the authority.

The developer claimed that the council’s Conservative leader Peter Jackson and other officers and councillors pressured the authority's former head of planning to alter his professional advice in a bid to block plans for the 2,000-home Dissington Garden Village project. The council has denied the allegations.

In September, the developer formally served a High Court writ against the council and relevant members.

Now, Lugano has withdrawn its planning application for the 2,000-home scheme, Northumberland Council has confirmed.

The developer did not respond to requests for further details from Planning, but, according to the BBC, it confirmed it will continue its High Court action and said it would resubmit plans for the garden village at a later date.

A spokeswoman for the council said: "We note the applicant's decision through their agents to withdrawn their planning application.

"We have maintained open communications with the applicant throughout the process of attempting to determine this application and a highly experienced chartered town planner had been preparing the report based on a full assessment of all material planning considerations. We categorically refute any suggestion there was political interference in this process.

"There has been a number of material planning changes since the application was last considered by committee and in line with other applications it was necessary to reconsider the scheme.

"A significant number of planning conditions were also associated with the previous 'minded to support' decision but many of these matters still remain unresolved. If a new application is submitted it will be considered on its own merits through the normal planning process."

The spokeswoman also confirmed that the developer’s legal challenge is ongoing.

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