19 January 2001

Villagers escape Colditz

By Nigel Burnham

PLANS for a housing development which villagers say will turn a farmers field into Colditz have been rejected despite three recommendations for approval.

John Robertson was seeking permission to build 36 houses at East Ord Farm, East Ord, near Berwick. He argued that he needed the revenue, but protesters in the medieval village said the development on the hillside overlooking their historic green would shatter the villages character.

Borough councillor Laraine Wotherspoon said villagers were not opposed to development in general, but did not think Mr Robertsons application was suitable for East Ord.

The greenfield development would mark a departure from the local plan, which encouraged use of previously developed, or brownfield sites, she said.

"Residents feared that with the houses piled above the new access road and the high retaining wall that would be required, the village would end up looking like Colditz."

Another protester said that villagers were opposed to the application because they felt "it would damage the centre of the village forever".

Local support

But Mr Robertson and his wife Margaret were not completely without local support. Some villagers said they were "appalled" by the way their application had been handled.

Mr and Mrs Robertson were stunned by the decision. Mrs Robertson said the couple "could not believe" that many members of the committee did not attend the meeting, leaving just nine councillors to vote on the issue. In the end, a single vote decided the issue as councillors divided 5-4 against the plan.

Mrs Robertson said that she and her husband may now appeal against the decision. "Our application has been recommended for approval three times, so we were very amazed when it was voted down. It was one of the biggest planning meetings to be held in the borough for years and yet only nine councillors turned up to vote." &#42