Heacham housing scheme rejected amid fury over scale of area development

Planning news
Planning news

Plans for dozens of new homes in Heacham were thrown out yesterday, as councillors and residents slammed the level of proposed development in the area.

Supporters of the Cheney Hill application insisted it could accommodate the 69 homes that had already been approved, plus another 64 in the latest scheme.

But objectors, many of whom were carrying placards to protest against the scheme, applauded as West Norfolk Council’s planning committee voted 10 to four to reject it.

One of the main arguments against the scheme was that it would double the amount of housing envisaged for the village under the borough’s current development framework if it was approved.

That came from the insertion of the words “at least” into site allocations at the recommendation of the government inspector who examined the document.

Alan Gomm, the borough’s local plan manager, said that had been necessary because of concerns over whether the borough could sustain an adequate supply of housing land without it.

But Heacham parish council chairman Michael Williamson said the plans did not represent the “limited development” envisaged in the development framework.

He said: “I urge you to consider the impact on our community and the public mistrust of future site allocations together with its perception of the planning process.”

Committee member Martin Storey also dismissed the reasoning behind that as “nonsense.”

He said: “People need to know the truth. I need to know the truth. We have got to make our decisions on the truth.”

But, asking for his vote in favour of the scheme to be recorded, Tony White said: “We have made policy. We should stick to it.”

Planning officials had called for the application to be approved, subject to legal agreements being completed by the end of November.

Agent Julian Kirkham, speaking on behalf of applicants WH Kerkham (Rhoon) Ltd, insisted the site was “underused” and would address an ongoing need for new homes.

He added: “There is major inequality in this country and one of the key drivers is housing. Clearly there is a need for 133 homes.”

But more than 200 objections were registered by residents, the parish council, the village’s two ward councillors and local MP Sir Henry Bellingham.

One of the main fears was the impact of additional traffic using the roads to avoid increasing congestion on the A149 and increasing dangers for children going to the village’s schools.

Graham Reader, chairman of the parish council’s lighting and watching committee, also claimed the village was at risk of becoming part of a “greater Hunstanton” if action wasn’t taken to prevent that from happening.

He said: “We want to remain a village. We need you to protect our identity.”

But Mr Kirkham dismissed the objections as “drumbeating”, arguing they only accounted for around four per cent of the total population of the village.