Councillors vote against recommendations of planning officers

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Stockton/Hartlepool)

A PLAN to build a £6m extra care housing scheme for old people has unexpectedly been turned down.

Stockton Borough Council’s planning committee rejected its own expert’s recommendation to approve the 52-bedroom Billingham development.

It was decided the four-storey block would have been too large for the area and important car parking spaces would have been lost.

Vela Homes wanted to build the two-bedroom and one-bedroom apartments on land near Billingham Community Centre.

Stockton Council would have sold a car park adjacent to the centre to allow the development to go ahead. Vela Homes had also secured £1.2m of funding from the Homes and Communities Agency and the overall cost would be been between £5.5m and £6m. On-site care would have been provided 24 hours a day.

A car park for 54 vehicles would have been created but the existing car park for 87 vehicles would have been lost.

Planning committee member, coun Jim Beall, deputy leader of the council, who also has special responsibility for adult services and care, spoke in favour of approval at the meeting held at Stockton Baptist Tabernacle today (Wednesday, January 16).

Referring to Billingham Town Council’s objection that there was no need for the facility, he said: “Billingham Town Council has got it wrong. There is a need which has been proven. These facilities are very popular.

"They give people the ability to have extra care and remain in the community. They are oversubscribed.”

However, Mick Stoker, a Billingham councillor, objected. He said: “It’s far too overbearing and in the wrong place. It would be far better suited on land near by and we wouldn’t lose the amenity of the car park.”

Resident David Harrison, of Roseberry Road, near the proposed site, was allowed to speak from the floor.

He said: “It’s out of character, too big for the area. There’s 1,000 people signed a petition to object for that reason. It would be like the Berlin Wall coming across the skyline and they got rid of that a few years ago.”

A total of four councillors voted for the proposal and seven against. Vela Homes now has the option to appeal to the Secretary of State and if Stockton council loses it will face a legal bill.

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