Plans approved for new housing estate in Chilton Moor, despite concerns over impact on wildlife and green space

Plans for a 45-home housing estate on the outskirts of Sunderland have been given the go-ahead – despite concerns over impacts to wildlife and loss of green space.

Wednesday, 1st September 2021, 4:35 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st September 2021, 4:50 pm

This week, Sunderland City Council’s Planning and Highways (West) Committee were asked to consider plans for land near Chilton Moor in the Houghton area.

The development site covers two parcels of open land to the east and west of a site off Redburn Road and south of Black Boy Road.

According to planning documents submitted on behalf of applicant Adderstone Living Ltd, the proposed development would offer 100% affordable housing and would be managed by registered provider Karbon Homes.

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CGI impressions of how new homes could look.

Proposals included a mixture of two and three-bedroom detached and semi-detached properties, including eight bungalows.

During several rounds of public consultation, the plans sparked comments from around 11 addresses in the area and Hetton Town Council, with concerns ranging from the amount of dwellings and increased traffic to impacts on ecology and biodiversity.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said the site was an “intrusion into the countryside” while Durham Wildlife Trust, which manages the nearby Rainton Meadows visitor centre and nature reserve, added the development would lead to “biodiversity net loss.”

The application was due to go before councillors at a meeting in late July 2021, however this was rescheduled to allow time for a further ecology report to be produced.

The site in question

Final arguments for and against the development were put forward at a planning hearing at Sunderland Civic Centre on Tuesday, August 31.

Houghton councillors Neil MacKnight and Juliana Heron spoke in objection raising concerns about the impact of the new housing on local infrastructure, the loss of green space in the ward, ecology impacts and highways issues.

Cllr MacKnight said he supported the principle of social housing but raised concerns about the ecological impacts and biodiversity loss.

He also noted the increase in housing developments across Houghton in recent years and said the ward is “now the largest-populated ward in the city”.

Despite the concerns, council planners maintained that the housing scheme was compliant with relevant policies and recommended the application for approval.

They said that the proposal was acceptable and would help the council meet housing targets, with all impacts offset by funds secured through a section 106 agreement.

The legal agreements are a standard part of the planning process and allow council planning authorities to request cash from applicants to reduce the impact of new developments.

In the case of the Chilton Moor housing plan, financial contributions totalling more than £340,000 are expected to be secured and channelled towards areas including education, off-site play provision and ecology mitigation.

In addition, the applicant will be required to deliver improvements to Redburn Road, including the provision of a new footway up to the junction with Black Boy Road.

During the planning hearing, councillors heard that the application site had been subject to several applications for residential development.

This included outline planning permission for 27 dwellings being granted in 2015, however these plans failed to progress to a full scheme.

A separate bid for around 50 homes on the site was also refused in 2019 by the city council’s area planning committee over issues related to design quality, impacts on ecology and education and the lack of affordable housing.

‘Cash for green spaces’

A key factor in the decision included the developer being unable to support section 106 financial contributions requested by the council.

While the new plans for 45 homes on the site were welcomed by the majority of councillors on the Planning and Highways (West) Committee, others raised concerns.

Councillor Heather Fagan said: “I don’t like the idea that if a developer throws enough money at a situation to take green fields away that it’s ok.

“So because [the developers] that wanted 50 houses didn’t put enough money [forward] it was declined but this one because they’re throwing enough cash to the council then it will go ahead and approve it.

“You can’t reverse things like damage to the wildlife so I will personally be voting against it.”

The application was later approved by the committee with five votes in support and three against.

Developers say the £9million scheme, which is being delivered in partnership with client Karbon Homes, will create up to 100 construction and associated supply chain jobs including direct labour, and will exclusively use local subcontractors and suppliers from the North East.

Adderstone Living director, Stephen McCoy, welcomed this week’s planning decision.

He said: “This consent allows us to introduce a new community to this beautiful former mining village in the form of a sustainable, high-quality development comprising a range of house types built around a village green.

“We are grateful for the support and vote of confidence from Sunderland City Council.”

Lea Smith, development manager at Karbon Homes, added: “This development meets the needs of the local community, with a mix of property types and sizes to provide options for residents at varying stages of life.

“The inclusion of bungalows was an important element to help combat the shortage of homes for older residents in this area.

“We hope local residents will welcome access to good quality, affordable housing in their local area.”

Works are due to commence this autumn, with the first phase of properties expected to be available in late 2022.

A number of units will also be available for Rent to Buy, allowing residents to pay 80% of market rent while they save towards a deposit to buy the house.

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