College homes plan nears a verdict

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A COUNCIL verdict is expected soon on long-running plans for a housing estate on the site of the old Loxley College in the green belt.

The college put the land off Wood Lane up for sale six years ago as it prepared to move to Hillsborough, but has yet to secure council permission amid concerns of local residents about the impact of development on the valley and the traffic implications.

Under consideration is an outline application involving 74 detached and semi-detached houses and townhouses.

One of the college’s key arguments is that the homes would occupy a ‘footprint’ half that of the former college.

In addition, the housing would be closer to the built-up area of Wood Lane, making the valley more open and attractive, and there is no question of being isolated in the green belt because of an established infrastructure, including buses, schools and shops, on the doorstep. “The proposed development would remove a derelict eyesore from the green belt and replace it with a more sensitive development,” says consultants for the college.

The latest scheme has been scaled back in the wake of councillors rejecting an application for 79 houses and 29 apartments at a time when the college was working with Persimmon Homes. The college says it does not have a housing partner at present.

Councillors are aiming to reach a decision towards the end of next month - and they will be under pressure again to resist the proposed development on the basis that the college has still not demonstrated the special circumstances required for green belt development. More than 100 objections have been lodged since April.

One Stannington couple say the main reason they settled in the area was because “we wanted to live near the green belt, as we enjoy walking and the unspoilt views of the Loxley Valley. We are concerned that the new development would spoil this for ourselves and other residents of the area. We have already had the public view over the Loxley Valley obscured by the new Forge Valley School (on the site of former Myers Grove Secondary).

The couple add: “The opening of the new Forge Valley School is expected to result in more traffic congestion in Lower Stannington and Malin Bridge. Surely the new development will only add to this problem?”