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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Cumbrian villagers celebrate apartment plan rejection

CAMPAIGNERS in Wetheral are celebrating after Carlisle city councillors threw out an enlarged scheme to build apartments on the site of Skelton House.

The Save Wetheral Village group claimed that the plans would create a huge building out of proportion with the rest of the village.

Councillors agreed and resolved to issue a legal “stop notice” after hearing that developer Citadel Estates had already started work.

The Carlisle-based company won planning permission in 2012 to demolish 200-year-old Skelton House and put up a three-storey building containing 15 apartments.

Its new plans would have kept the number at 15 but increased the size of the building, adding a fourth floor.

Objectors said this would increase its footprint by 20 per cent and the total floorspace by 38 per cent.

But planning consultant Andrew Willison-Holt, acting for Citadel, told councillors: “This [revised] scheme would make no real difference to the conservation area or the amenity of neighbours. It is a refinement to make the scheme more attractive, marketable and deliverable.

“We are frankly surprised by the public reaction because we think this is an improvement.”

The application brought 99 objections, and later amendments a further 28 objections.

Some of them addressed the development control committee in person.

Andrew Hall, who lives next door but one to the site, said: “Most people in Wetheral reluctantly accepted that the previous application should proceed but this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“It’s the increase in the size that concerned many of the objectors.

“Neighbouring houses will be dominated.

“The sheer scale is massive and significantly larger than any other building in Wetheral.”

Councillors agreed. Conservative Ray Bloxham said: “It’s contrary to design policy. It doesn’t respond to the local context any more. I always said it looked a bit like Bleak House – even more so now.”

Labour’s Willie Whalen added: “This is a development the village doesn’t need. I feel that enough is enough and this development is too much.”

Citadel boss Dean Montgomery said after the decision that he planned to appeal.

He said: “It’s a pity that the lay members of the planning committee chose to ignore the advice of its professional planning officers.”

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