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Site boss hoping to win over villagers; Victory achieved after long battle.

Byline: Paul Tully

ANORTHUMBERLAND man hopes to have a tourist site up and running within a year after winning a planning appeal against the National Park.

Rob Cocker is going full steam ahead with his bunkhouse-and-bothies development at Lanehead, near Tarset in the North Tyne Valley.

Lanehead villagers opposed the scheme and he was refused permission for the five-acre development by the National Park Authority last October but took the authority to appeal - and won.

Now Rob, 46, and his partner Claire Briggs will make the small holiday business their livelihood.

He said: "It became a hot potato in the village and we feel a bit battered after all we've gone through.

"Getting the notification of the appeal victory was particularly joyous and now all we want to do is live there and make a go of the business. There have been difficult times, but we really do think the village will come over to us when they see what we are doing."

Appeal Inspector Wenda Fabian said she accepted the development as "small scale" - it has a bunkhouse and five bothies with a maximum 30 bed spaces.

She added: "The proposal would sit easily within this sparse, widely-spaced settlement. The whole development would, with time, be further assimilated into the landscape and softened by the provision of new planting."

The National Park Authority had said it would bring "over-intensified development" and be highly visible from a prominent, elevated position, with detrimental impact on amenity.

But Mrs Fabian ruled: "Each of the proposed buildings would be at a significant distance from neighbouring dwellings.

"I have seen little to convince me that the possible noise and disturbance arising from this type of activity would be materially greater than that which might arise from time to time at any residential property in the area, or at the village hall."

Anthony Murray, chairman of the Northumberland National Park development management committee, said he was "upset" at the outcome of the appeal.

He added: "Whilst the committee supported the general principle of tourism development on the site, which is in line with our planning policies, we considered that key aspects of this particular scheme were not in keeping with the character of Lanehead or the wider landscape.

"We felt it had a negative impact on the special qualities of the National Park."

But Mr Cocker, a former councillor in Kendal, Cumbria, said: "Because of having been a councillor, I know how these things work and studied everything carefully before deciding to go for it.

"We were always obeying the rules in the management plan. Officers assessed eight communities within the National Park which were suitable for local needs - and this is one of them."

NPA Chairman John Riddle said: "This application was finely poised between the authority's policy to support the local economy and its statutory purpose to protect the National Park landscape.

"Every planning application has a unique set of circumstances and in this case the inspector had a different view."


AMBITIONS Rob Cocker and partner Claire Briggs have high hopes for the site
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 28, 2011
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