No-go for latest plan to develop dilapidated St Peter's site at Gainford
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
A PROPOSAL to build 39 homes on part of the former St Peter’s School site at Gainford has been rejected.
Kebbell Homes applied to build the houses on the part of the site it owns after failing to reach agreement with Ruttle Plant, which owns the former school buildings, to progress a previously approved, more comprehensive, plan.
That plan included converting the remaining school building into homes.
Planning officer Steve Pilkington told Durham County Council’s south and west planning committee last week that there had been six letters of objection to Kebbell Homes’ latest proposal.
He added that the redevelopment of the arson-hit St Peter’s building was critical to the previous planning permission being granted.
He added: “Given the omission of the school building and associated land, any benefits previously attributed to the redevelopment of the site do not weigh in favour of the proposal and the presumption in favour of development should be overwritten.”
He said while there would be limited benefits in terms of the provision of affordable housing and economic benefits during construction, these did not outweigh the harm it would do to the rural landscape in an area of high landscape value.
However, agent for Kebbell Homes, Steve Longstaff, of ELG Planning, said considerable effort had gone into trying to get a deal with Ruttle Plant, but it had proved unsuccessful.
He added that the other landowner might be spurred into action if the committee gave Kebbell permission to start building on its share of the site.
He said: “While this is not an ideal solution, we hope members can appreciate the difficult position the applicant is in, and the efforts of Kebbell in attempting to be proactive to bring this site forward.
“Kebbell believe a start has to be made somewhere and granting planning permission for their current application provides the best opportunity available to resolve the problems at St Peter’s.”
Barnard Castle East county councillor George Richardson, who also represents Gainford, described St Peter’s as a millstone round the council’s neck which had been a problem for many years.
He added: “I have spoken to a couple of the parish councillors, and everyone I have spoken to [agrees] this doesn’t meet the criteria.
“It’s not what we want and as desperate as we are to have something done with the St Peter’s site, with a heavy heart I will have to recommend the officer’s proposal of refusal.”
The committee voted unanimously to refuse the application.
Committee chairman Cllr John Clare concluded: “There is still a year left on the original application and I would appeal to Kebbell and their agent to pull this one out of the fire and do what we gave you permission to do in the first place.”