Old Hunstanton fights affordable housing

Candidates for the Norfolk County Council Elections May 2013 ENGANL00120130426152813
Candidates for the Norfolk County Council Elections May 2013 ENGANL00120130426152813
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Old Hunstanton Parish Council took its battle to block plans for affordable housing to be built on the edge of the village to London today.

One of the country’s top judges, Mrs Justice Lang, has reserved judgment in the case and will give it in writing later. No date has yet been fixed.

The council claims that the Government should not have given the green-light to a development of 15 affordable homes on a field on the edge of the village. It says there isn’t a local need for them.

They have asked the judge to reverse the decision made by former planning supremo Eric Pickles last year.

Luke Wilcox, for the council, told the court that planning rules allow rural greenfield development if there is a “local identified need.”

In this situation that must mean “local rural need,” he said. He claimed that the planning inspector who recommended the go-ahead for the project to the Secretary of State did not appreciate that and wrongly considered the needs of the nearby town of Hunstanton as well.

Old Hunstanton has around 600 inhabitants while nearby Hunstanton has around 5,000 inhabitants. According to the housing register there are only two households in housing need in Old Hunstanton, compared with 22 in Hunstanton itself, said Mr Wilcox. He added that the statistics showed that there was no need for 15 affordable homes in Old Hunstanton.

John Dobson, the Chairman of Old Hunstanton Parish Council, attended the hearing. Speaking outside of court he said that the dispute, which has gone on for around two years, was “multifaceted and very complex.”

However, he said that he was the leader of the Borough Council that wrote the rules allowing development on green field sites if there was a “local need.”

He said that the borough council brought in the rule because the number of people buying holiday homes in the area had made houses in the villages too expensive for local people.

But he said green field development should only be allowed to let the people in the village who need housing build houses.

He added that the policy was not intended to allow people from the nearby town to be housed in the village.

However, Richard Honey, the counsel for the Secretary of State who is opposing the challenge, told the court that the council was wrong.

He said that in reaching his decision the planning inspector had applied a “clear and natural” interpretation of the rules in a way that was in line with “local planning authorities up and down the country.”