Housing bid ‘threatens the heart of Methwold’, residents claim

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A centuries-old landscape in the heart of a West Norfolk village will be destroyed if plans for 30 new homes are given the go-ahead, residents have claimed.

Proposals have been submitted to West Norfolk Council planning officials to develop an area of open land on Crown Street, Methwold.

Developers have insisted their proposals will not harm the surrounding area or views of the ground.

But objectors have seized on documents submitted by the developers which highlight the “highest quality village-scape” of the site.

They say the open countryside they are currently able to enjoy via an existing network of footpaths would be ruined if the development was permitted.

One resident, Michael Moat, said: “This amenity would be lost to the village forever if the development is allowed to proceed and would make a mockery of the conservation process.

“We understand that this site has been previously turned down for planning permission and can see no reason why this should change.”

The site also stands close to the grade one listed St George’s Church and Old Rectory, as well as the grade two listed New Hall.

But, in a ‘heritage statement’ submitted to the borough council as part of the proposals, applicant Richard Waite said: “The basic open nature of the view is changed but not compromised by the proposals.”

The document also claimed that the appearance of the surrounding conservation area would be preserved by the development.

Further concerns have been raised about the suitability of the land, which opponents say is known locally as the Sinks, for housing development on flood risk grounds.

And parish councillors opposed the scheme at their meeting last week, because of concerns over the lack of infrastructure and services to support such a development in Methwold.

Objectors have also voiced concerns about connections between the land and one of the village’s ward borough councillors, Martin Storey.

Mr Storey has confirmed that the land is owned by his family, but said he could not comment on the proposals.

Although he is a member of the borough council’s planning committee, Mr Storey will not be able to take part in any discussion of the proposal if it is put before the committee for a decision.

Council officials have set a target date of February 11 for a decision to be reached on the proposal.

The plan is one of several schemes for the area which are currently before West Norfolk Council planning officials.

Clough Homes have submitted an outline application for 24 homes which it hopes to build in a vacant field off Hythe Road.

There are also plans to convert three redundant barns at Hall Farm, Hall Farm Drive, and a redundant shop on High Street into houses.

And a further outline application has been submitted to build four homes at nearby Methwold Hythe.

Like many other communities in West Norfolk, the area has seen a surge of new planning applications in recent months.

And borough council figures show the number of planning applications submitted during November was 12.5 per cent up on the same month last year.

The trend can be traced back to a High Court ruling in July when the authority lost its bid to overturn a planning inspector’s decision to allow the construction of 40 new homes on the old Fosters sports ground site in Clenchwarton.

The court backed the inspector’s view that the council could not demonstrate it had an adequate five year supply of housing land in the borough.

Since then, the council has had to assess planning applications in line with national guidelines, which are intended to allow what it terms “sustainable development”, rather than more localised rules.

On the rise in planning applications, Mr Storey said he understood the concerns of local people about the impact of new developments on their communities.

But he said the council had to balance local concerns against government pressure to provide more housing and the wishes of people to live in their local areas.

He said: “People born and bred in an area must be assisted for housing in that area.”