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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

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New hope over plans for Carlisle homes and jobs

Work to create hundreds of homes and thousands of jobs in Carlisle has taken a crucial step forward.

The so-called Morton Masterplan for a massive building development in the west of the city have been in the pipeline for years.

Outline planning permission has been in place for nearly three years, but little movement has been made since then.

But progress is now being made with landowners the Church Commissioners tabling a bid for full planning permission which, if granted, would clear the way for work to begin.

The full scheme could see up to 825 new houses and possibly 2,750 new jobs on land between Wigton Road and Dalston Road, on the western edge of Carlisle.

Although the land is owned by the Church Commissioners for England, it would be down to a developer to progress the building work on what is currently agricultural land.

Increasing the population is seen as a key driver to growing the city’s economy and creating a firmer financial future, with the programme for Morton one of several major housing developments planned for the area.

The only other on that scale is Story Homes’ 850-home Crindledyke estate to the north of the city. If the Morton scheme were to go ahead, that would give major developments at either end of the western bypass.

Carlisle MP John Stevenson is pleased to see progress being made in the west of the city.

Mr Stevenson said: “This is positive news. Since being elected I have been very much supportive of policies that will help grow the city. This is a strong indication that this is now starting to happen.

“It would be great to see progress made on a full planning application as soon as possible, so this can start sooner rather than later.”

Initial plans for Morton were to have the homes built in three phases over 10 years.

A Church Commissioners spokesman said: “We are working with the council to get the site ready for development.”

A business park, being built as part of the scheme, would be at the corner of Peter Lane and Wigton Road and have 430,000sq ft of floor space suitable for offices or light industry.

Outline plans showed nearly 250 homes – many three and four-bedroom homes – that would be classed as ‘affordable’ with half for rent and half for sale to locals at less than the market price.

Space is set aside for a primary school, which might be needed later, and there will be a playground, play area, sports field, 24 allotments and a public art “focal point”.

Access to the new homes would be from Peter Lane or Dalston Road, with a link for buses from Newlaithes Avenue in Morton Park.

Any developer who buys the land will have to pay £1.6m to upgrade transport links and £2m towards the cost of a new school.

John Bell, a Labour city councillor for Morton, said: “I am very pleased to see that this planning is progressing through the correct channels and that it’s being done properly.

“The west of the city is an up and coming area – what with plans for the new supermarket as well – and I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

Negotiations between landowner city council and a major retailer are at an advanced stage for a supermarket site off Wigton Road which could create more than 400 jobs.

Both Mr Stevenson and city council chief executive Jason Gooding have spoken of their belief that Carlisle needs to grow.

When he took up his job in 2011, Mr Gooding said he believed that rate of growth needed to be about 600 homes-a-year.

Mr Stevenson believes movement at Morton is a signal of confidence about development and housing demand in the city.

He added: “If we want to sustain business and add extra facilities we need to have a larger population.

“This sort of development is hugely welcome and we must give them as much support as we can.”

“I’ve long said that Carlisle has weathered the economic difficulties relatively well. None of our major employers have shed labour to any great extend and some are investing. Carlisle is well-placed to do well in the upturn.”

It is not yet clear when a decision on the Morton application will be made.

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