Brain injury unit approved for West Norfolk village despite opposition from council leader

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An application to build a new brain injury unit in a rural West Norfolk village has caused dismay amongst a number of its residents.

On Tuesday, West Norfolk Council’s Planning Committee approved the construction of the two-storey and single-storey development on the site at Hickathrift House Care Home, in Marshland St James.

The development will see the addition of 30 beds in wards with ancillary accommodation, and 10 independent living apartments, and access to the building would be gained directly from The Smeeth with demolition of an existing bungalow.

Objections to the application came from a number of sources, which included council leader Brian Long, who represents Marshland St James, and said that the development’s scale was not in keeping with surrounding buildings, or with the current care home building itself.

“Presently Marshland St James doesn’t have a shop or a post office, and the pub is closed, so there isn’t sustainability in any way, shape or form,” Mr Long added.

Other concerns came from worried neighbours Colin and Joan Biddle, as well as parish councillor Carol Coleman, who cited noise, privacy and car parking as some of their main issues with the application.

Mr Long said: “Put these facilities in a location where they can be sustainable and work.”

Those in favour of the plans, though, said the service was desperately needed in the area.

West Norfolk Council’s principal planner Hannah Wood-Handy said: “Our core strategy is clear – we should be providing for all parts of the community, and there have been no objections from strategy consultees.”

Planning committee chairwoman Vivienne Spikings said: “We had the same sort of objections to Tapping House, but over the years it got passed and now it is used, it is obvious it was much-needed.

“There’s a crying need for these services. I understand the neighbours’ position, but we have more and more people coming along with varying medical needs. We all sit here very lucky with good health, but if it were you, you would want the health services as close as possible.”

Councillor Sheila Young agreed, and said: “People who are coming out of acute care services would come here, and therefore relieve the acute services. It will be a godsend.”

The committee voted largely in favour of the development, however, with 10 members voting for the application and five voting against it.

One such councillor who did not vote for the application was Chris Crofts, who said: “I think we ought to look at the concerns of the people who live locally.

“I question the sustainability of this site – I have lived in Marshland St James, I know it quite well and it will not be getting my vote.”

The unit was approved subject to several conditions, including ensuring the permanent availability of parking, among others.