Heacham residents gear up for new housing inquiry

Heacham residents outside Lynn's Town Hall before the West Norfolk Planning Committee meeting when a decision will be made on the proposed major housing development - Peter Colvin (front) chairman of the Parish Council with one of the campaigners' posters. ENGANL00120130209100905
Heacham residents outside Lynn's Town Hall before the West Norfolk Planning Committee meeting when a decision will be made on the proposed major housing development - Peter Colvin (front) chairman of the Parish Council with one of the campaigners' posters. ENGANL00120130209100905

Residents are being urged to back the ongoing fight against a major housing scheme in their community ahead of a second public inquiry into it this spring.

A meeting will be held in Heacham next month to discuss the village’s stance against the scheme for land off School Road, after a new challenge to the refusal of planning permission was permitted.

But developers behind the proposals maintain they are still needed in the area.

Townsfolk and Broadland Housing lost their bid to overturn a West Norfolk Council decision to block plans for around 70 new homes, a care home and sheltered housing units on the site, which lies to the west of the A149, in February last year.

Following a three-day public inquiry, inspector Joanna Reid ruled that the need for suitable accommodation for elderly people in the area did not outweigh the harm that would be caused by the scheme.

But that decision was quashed at the High Court in London after lawyers for the Department for Communities and Local Government admitted that the granting of planning permission for homes on the old Fosters Sports Ground in Clenchwarton should have been taken into account.

Court documents, which have been published on West Norfolk Council’s planning website, said: “The Secretary of State concedes that his inspector erred in that she failed to have regard to a material consideration which supported the claimant’s case on its appeal.”

A new public inquiry is now expected to open in May and campaigners have arranged a public meeting for Saturday, February 13, at 2pm in the Old Friends Hall to generate supportfor the campaign against the proposal.

The event has been organised by the Keep Heacham a Village campaign, which was established when a much larger proposal for more than 350 homes on the land was first put forward three years ago.

The campaign against the development has retained the support of local MP Sir Henry Bellingham, who has called for it to be rejected once again.

He claims the case for it has been further undermined by recent local planning decisions, including the awarding of permission for 69 homes on a site next to the disputed land.

In a letter to the Planning Inspectorate, which has also been published by the borough council, he also highlighted the decision to approve 166 new homes to the north of the village, which was made by the borough council’s planning committee last November.

He said: “I would certainly suggest that the context of this application has changed quite significantly since it was originally turned down, and since its first failed appeal.”

But Andrew Savage, executive partnerships director for Broadland Housing, said yesterday: “There is an identified need for both open market housing and older persons accommodation that this development has the potential to deliver.

“Townsfolk Ltd and Broadland Housing Association are working to ensure that this critical need for housing in the region is addressed.”