MP warns of development threat to model farm complex

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14 Jan 2010

A unique slice of Newcastle’s heritage has come under renewed threat from developers who want to convert a historic farm complex into a hotel and spa.

Newcastle MP Paul Farrelly has urged Borough planners to reject the latest application to develop the Betley Model Farm, a grade 2 listed building.

"Residents were shocked and angered when developers first submitted their plans last year. Now the same developers have come along with revised proposals which do little to assuage public fears," said Mr Farrelly.

Manchester-based Y&Y Developments has submitted plans to turn the farm complex into a 12-bedroom hotel with a spa and car parking. Their scheme will be considered by Newcastle Borough Council’s planning committee.

But the plans have aroused strong opposition from residents who fear the scheme, if approved, could lead to the sell-off of the buildings which are nationally acclaimed as a site of special architectural and historical interest.

Mr Farrelly said the conversion scheme would be an unacceptable intrusion into the open countryside, threatening the Green Belt and the village’s conservation area status.

"I have serious concerns about the fate of this site if this scheme is approved and I have called on the planners at Newcastle to listen to public opinion and reject this latest application," he said.

"When the scheme was first put forward I asked the Council to do everything it could to protect the character of this unique site, preferably by ensuring that in any development the buildings are retained as a group, so safeguarding the historic and architectural integrity of the site," he said.

The model farm was built in the early 19th Century by George Tollet, a pioneer geneticist and an acquaintance of Charles Darwin.

Tollet’s ‘model farm’ incorporated some of the latest innovations in agricultural thinking and technologies, including the use of water power for threshing and food preparation and experimental methods in sheep breeding.

"It is important that the fabric and structure of the complex should be retained if at all possible. The buildings clearly need to be preserved as a group and ideally with no alterations," added Mr Farrelly.