Prospective applicants should carefully read the planning guidelines on this page, and contact the Secretary for further clarification if necessary. Plans are much more likely to be approved if they comply with the guidelines.
Prospective applicants should be aware of the content of the Deed Of Mutual Covenants, particularly clause 14, which establishes the Estate Committee and states its purpose:
- “No dwellinghouse or other building shall be erected unless the plans thereof have first been submitted to and approved by a majority of such Committee.”
Attention is also drawn to the comments of Mr Justice Millett, in his 1986 High Court judgement in favour of the Estate Committee:
- “The stipulations in the Deed of Mutual Covenants have formed a private, local law, democratically administered by a Committee elected by a majority of the owners of land comprised in the Estate, the Committee itself having an express power to act by a majority.”
- “I am persuaded that the object of clause 14 was to enable the Committee to preserve the character and amenity of the Estate by withholding or granting approval, or by imposing proper conditions on the grant of approval, and they might properly take into account any matter … which might affect the character and amenity of the Estate.”
Prospective applicants are invited to ask the Committee to consider a basic version of their plans informally, without a fee, for guidance on the viability of their plans, before incurring the expense of professional plans, or indeed purchase of a property.
It is highly recommended that applicants gain consent from the Estate Committee before going to the expense of gaining consent from Northumberland County Council. The Committee cannot be held liable for costs involved in varying or reapplying for County Council consent.
Applicants should download and complete the checklist at the bottom of this page. This should be submitted, accompanied with detailed plans to the Secretary, via email to email@example.com. Please note the position of Secretary is vacant at this moment in time (May 2021). The appropriate fee should be paid according to the Schedule of Fees found at the top and bottom of this page.
There is a flowchart at the bottom of this page for guidance as to the planning process. The basic process is:
- Applicants submit plans at least a week before the monthly Estate Committee meeting, which takes place on the second Wednesday of every month, except August.
- The plans are assigned to one or more surveyors at said meeting.
- P1 documents (consultation letters) are sent out to all neighbours potentially affected by the proposed building.
- The surveyors perform a site visit.
- At the following month’s meeting, the surveyors present their report, objections are considered, discussion is had, and either a decision is taken then, or the Committee requests further details, and the application will be revisited at the next Committee meeting.
- Approval is granted by the issue of a P2 form.
- On completion of the building works a Committee member will conduct a further survey and if the construction has been carried out in accordance with the original plans, a stamped P3 form is issued which can the be provided to subsequent purchasers.
The Committee may exercise its discretion to adapt this process in any individual case. It may for example wish to conduct a survey before building works are completed to ensure the finished construction will comply with the permission that has been granted. Applicants are encouraged by the Estate Committee to discuss proposals with neighbours prior to making an application.
Each application is considered strictly on its merits and in line with the Committee’s duty, as set out in the 1895 Deed of Mutual Covenants.
Mandatory building lines
- Batt House Road and New Ridley Road: 12.2 metres
- Crabtree Road and Birches Nook Road: 8.2 metres
- West Side of Adams Bank: 8.2 metres
- Ridley Mill Road: 3.0 metres
- All other roads: 18.2 Metres
- In any new development, including a new highway, the minimum building line shall be 15.2 metres
Note – the mandatory building lines cannot be changed by the Estate Committee. They serve to prevent buildings being erected any closer to roads than the prescribed distances. In effect they create strips of land abutting all roads on the Estate. The Committee has no discretion when considering applications to build on those areas and must refuse approval to any application that would contravene these restrictions. The distances stated have been updated to the metric system. As the High Court has recognised, the power of the Committee to grant or refuse approval is not limited to a mere determination of whether or not the proposed buildings fall within the areas of restriction set out in the Mandatory Criteria; were that the full extent of the Committees powers it would be powerless to protect the character and amenity of the Estate by refusing approval to buildings proposed to be erected on that vast majority of the Estate that falls outside the Mandatory Criteria restrictions; the Committee would not for example be empowered to refuse approval to any proposal to build even multiple dwelling houses on an existing garden area.
The Estate Committee apply the following discretionary criteria:
- Each individual residence must have frontage to the publicly maintained road of 25 metres or more
- Each individual residence must be built on a plot size of 1/2 acre minimum, with 1/3 acre minimum considered in exceptional circumstances
- No part of any dwelling or extension shall approach closer than 4.6 metres to a single boundary, except in the case of an extension or alteration to provide a single storey garage or car port which shall not approach closer than 0.9 metres to a boundary
- No part of any non-habitable outbuilding (garage, shed, greenhouse etc.) shall approach closer than 0.9 metres to a boundary
- The design and materials used for extensions and alterations shall match or blend with those of the existing building. For new dwellings the design and materials chosen shall harmonise with existing development within the vicinity. Natural materials of good quality and weathering properties are to be preferred. Short lived materials and corrugated metal will not be acceptable
- The boundary of each property should be marked and the design and materials of any fencing must harmonise with the surroundings
- There is a long established principle that “back-site” development is not likely to be considered to be in keeping with the character and amenity of the Estate. This principle has been endorsed by the Covenantors in general meeting in both 1959 and 1976.
- In 1959: “That this meeting consider the present trend towards “back-site” development on the Estate is undesirable and authorise the Committee to take this view into account when considering the plans for new buildings submitted to them.”
- In 1976: “That this Meeting wishes the Committee, in the corporate interests of the Owners, to consider each application strictly on its merits, and refuse to pass plans which, in the Committee’s opinion, would unreasonably disrupt the existing environment. In reaching their decisions the Committee should give due consideration to the question of back site development which should be discouraged as was the intention of the resolution passed by Owners at the 1959 AGM.”
Successive estate Committees have established discretionary criteria to apply when considering applications and by which the have sought, in the words of Mr Justice Millet, “to preserve the character and amenity of the estate by with-holding or granting permission”. These discretionary criteria (commonly referred to as guidelines) have in recent decades been published to :
- provide guidance to prospective applicants whether their application is likely to receive approval
- prevent any perception the applications are considered in an inconsistent or arbitrary manner
- ensure that a consistent and structured approach is taken by the Estate Committee
The discretionary Criteria are merely guidelines. Therefore, if the Committee receives an application that does not conform to the criteria/guidelines it may still exercise its discretion to grant approval if it decides that the proposal would not be detrimental to the character and amenity of the Estate or set a precedent which would be so detrimental. Conversely the Committee may exercise its discretion to refuse approval to a proposal that conforms to the criteria/guidelines if it decides that to grant approval would be detrimental to the character and amenity of the estate or set a precedent that may be so detrimental.
When considering applications it is incumbent on the Committee in every case in the words of Mr Justice Millett, to ensure that the decision is “given honestly and in good faith and not for some improper purpose”.
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