End in sight for 20 year planning dispute

A planning dispute that has left a large house in Whickham half built for nearly 20 years could be resolved in the near future.


Government ministers have ordered a hearing into the house on Whickham Bank which has now stood unfinished for almost 17 years.


Planning permission for the partial 2 and 3 storey building was granted in 1998 but as the new house was being built, concerns were raised that neighbouring homes would be heavily overshadowed and residents would lose their privacy.


In 2005, Gateshead Council’s planning committee ordered the removal of the third storey but no work was carried out because of a legal dispute.


In 2010, the planning committee issued new instructions which allowed the 3rd storey to be retained but ordered the pitched roof be replaced with a flat one. However, no work was carried out and the house remained unfinished.


Last year, the planning committee agreed that the planning decision passed in 2010 should be reinstated but also agreed to put a final decision into the hands of the Secretary of State for Housing who has now agreed to hold a hearing into the issue.


Local Lib Dem Councillors have expressed their frustration that the issue has dragged on for nearly 20 years.


Cllr Sonya Hawkins said, “This issue has been unresolved for a huge length of time and it needs to be sorted out. The unfinished house is on one of the main roads in Whickham and in its current state is an eyesore.


“Ward councillors in Whickham North wrote to the Secretary for Housing raising our objections to replacing the pitched with a flat roof. We told the minister that our ideal solution would be to have the whole of the unfinished house demolished but in the absence of that, we want the permission granted in 2005 – to remove the 3rd storey – reinstated. This will reduce the impact the house has on people living nearby.


“The minister has now ordered a hearing be carried out. We will be representing residents at this hearing at which we will repeat our case that either full demolition or the removal of the 3rd storey will help to resolve the matter.


“The minister will then take a decision on the matter and hopefully the final chapter of the story of the unfinished house of Whickham will be written.”


History of the site:


  • Planning permission for the house was granted in 1998.
  • In 2005 much of the house had been built in line with the original planning permission, at which point concerns were raised about neighbouring homes being overshadowed and losing their privacy. As a result, in 2005, Gateshead Council's Planning Committee authorised the removal of the third storey.
  • However, a legal dispute followed, no building work was carried out and the planning permission expired. In 2010, the planning committee reached a majority decision, voting for replacement of the pitched roof with a flat roof and ignoring pleas for the original decision of 2005 to be upheld. Conditions were also placed on the planning consent relating to landscaping and privacy issues.
  • Despite this, the legal dispute remained unresolved and no work took place on the house.
  • In May 2020, the planning committee put into action rarely used powers of section 102 of the Town and Country Act 1990 to reinstate the now expired planning permission with the final decision put into the hands of the Secretary of State for Housing.
  • The Section 102 notice requires the owner of the house to make alterations to the existing building, including replacing the pitched roof with a lower flat roof design; installing obscure glazing to some windows and introducing a landscaping scheme on the site.


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