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New homes bid is set to be approved; Banks Group's Cambois plan to be backed.

Byline: Dave Black

A MULTI-MILLION pound development which aims to regenerate an isolated Northumberland seaside village look set to win the backing of council planners - more than four years after it was first put forward.

The ambitious project by the Banks Group - including more than 300 homes and new shopping and healthcare facilities is designed to transform Cambois near Bedlington.

Next week county councillors will be recommended to approve the scheme in principle, although it will have to be referred to Government ministers because of its wider policy implications. Four years ago Banks unveiled plans to turn Cambois into one of the then Labour Government's new "eco-towns" as part of a nationwide drive to promote vibrant, sustainable communities.

The project involved up to 5,000 new homes and a massive transformation of the village, but it failed to win the support of ministers.

Early last year Banks submitted scaled-down plans, which centre on re-developing the site of the former Vald Birn iron foundry, which closed in 2006 with the loss of 157 jobs.

The company claims it has the support of 75% of local residents, who welcome new investment in a community hit badly by dwindling facilities and services.

Next week county councillors will be recommended to support the application, subject to referral to the Secretary of State and the conclusion of legal agreements to secure affordable housing, replacement sports and playing fields provision and a new village bus service funded by Banks.

A report to the south east area planning committee says a 144-name petition has been received in support of the scheme, which is also backed by East Bedlington Parish Council. There have only been two objections.

Banks wants to redevelop 35 acres of land, including the former Vald Birn site, with 323 homes, a village centre, car parking and landscaped areas.

Along with the current application, the company has submitted a strategic master plan for the future development of Cambois, including more new housing and industrial uses.

Yesterday Cambois Community Association chairman, Les Paton, said the scheme was welcomed by villagers, although there were still some reservations over the loss of allotments, a football field and a children's play area.

He said: "I have been fighting for 14 years for more housing in Cambois, and if we don't get some the place is going to die all together. The Vald Birn site is a mess at the moment and something needs to be done about it."

In a letter to the council, local residents Paul and Carol Crossland say: "The North Blyth and Cambois area has had very little positive investment for many years, and as a result the community has begun to fragment. It needs to have developments such as this to encourage young families to move into Cambois, an area which has suffered from decades of neglect and post-industrial decline."

Last night Justin Hancock, senior planner at Banks, said: "We know there's a real community desire to see this project move forward as part of the regeneration of the village.

"We hope the planning committee members follow the recommendation of their officers next week."

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FOUNDRY SITE Banks Developments' planner Justin Hancock at the site
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 10, 2012
Words:531
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