Inspector rejects appeal on Heacham homes plan

PLANNING PROTEST AT HEACHAM Public Hall'                            ''The packed hall ENGANL00120130422105253

PLANNING PROTEST AT HEACHAM Public Hall' ''The packed hall ENGANL00120130422105253

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A government inspector has rejected an appeal against the refusal of planning consent for a controversial major housing development on the edge of Heacham.

Local people have fiercely opposed Broadland Housing and Townsfolk’s bid to develop land to the west of the A149, off School Road, since an initial scheme for more than 350 properties was unveiled two years ago.

But now, the companies’ bid to overturn the rejection of a much smaller scheme for the land has also been dismissed.

The developers had wanted to build 70 homes, 60 sheltered housing units, a 60-bed care home, an electric substation and community facilities on the land.

However, that application was turned down by West Norfolk Council in February last year.

And, in a ruling published on Friday, planning inspector Joanna Reid said the benefits offered by the care facilities were outweighted by the harm that the development would have done to the surrounding countryside.

She said: “It would not outweigh the harm that the proposal would cause to the character and appearance of the area, and by its inappropriate location.”

She also pointed out that the total scheme offered around three times the level of new housing envisaged in the borough council’s future development plans.

A total of 66 new homes are envisaged for Heacham under the council’s development framework for the period up to the year 2026.

Andrew Savage, executive director of the Broadland Housing Group, yesterday said they and Townsfolk were “extremely disappointed” with the inspector’s ruling, which followed a three-day hearing in January.

He said: “We are strongly committed to providing homes for a range of people and, in this instance, affordable older people accommodation will again not be delivered in an area which has identified housing need.

“The development partnership will be reviewing its options, as we will continue to strive to deliver housing for our local communities.”

But North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said he was “delighted” by the ruling and paid tributes to the village community’s efforts to fight the scheme.

He said: “They can be very pleased with what they have achieved.”

He also suggested the ruling could have implications for the borough council’s legal battle against a planning inspector’s decision to grant planning permission for 40 homes on the Fosters sports ground site in Clenchwarton.

In that case, which the council is seeking a judicial review of, a planning inspector ruled the council could not demonstrate it had a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites.

However, in this instance, the developers accepted the authority could show that such a supply existed.