In a more enlightened age the aim of the planning system was to halt ribbon development and urban sprawl, but the borough council’s planning committee ignored this principle by granting permission for Butterfield Meadows, a new housing estate on land forming part of Searles Leisure Resort, which will fill in the gap between Heacham and Hunstanton, effectively merging the two parishes.
The timing of the decision could not have been much worse because the following day a planning inspector was due to hear how plans for future housing development in Hunstanton will comply with the Local Development Framework. It will be interesting to see what effect this decision has on the release of building land closer to the town centre, which will not have the same adverse impact on the landscape and the environment.
After last week’s meeting, Terence Parish, Chairman of Heacham council’s planning committee, but speaking for himself, said: “The decision is not surprising as commonsense appears to be in short supply! Notwithstanding the lack of a 5 year land supply – thought up by a devious government and mucked up by the borough council – this application could have still been rejected on the grounds that it is clearly unsustainable. I would urge everyone in west Norfolk caught up in this nightmare of rubber stamped planning nonsense, to do as I have done and make a complaint through the borough’s customer complaints site. After this the ombudsman can be approached and a class action would be interesting. The proposed access involves building a new road; a bridge; and a roundabout; but fails to connect the site effectively to Hunstanton. This will increase the cost of the houses and eventually mean cutting more services to pay for maintenance. However, with changes they could still have built the houses (unfortunately) but with better access – say through Searles’ land as they are the ones making the money.”
Even those members of the borough planning committee who supported the development admitted to having concerns about the adverse impact caused by access to the site from Heacham, yet none of them asked why the applicants had ruled out the possibility of vehicular access directly from Hunstanton via Searles. The only reason advanced by a spokesman for Hopkins was: “There is a golf course in the way.” It is indeed a sad day for ‘Localism’ when disrupting the flow of traffic on the A149 is deemed preferable to realigning a golf course!
The cost of the new roundabout will be met by Hopkins, but will be reflected in the price of the properties, which might surprise supporters of the scheme who seem to think Hopkins will provide lots of so-called ‘affordable’ homes.
There is further irony in the fact that the architectural style of ‘Butterfield Meadows’ will not be inspired by the architect William Butterfield who designed the Golden Lion Hotel in 1845 - the very first building in Henry le Strange’s sea bathing village. To add insult to injury, instead of using large quantities of local carstone in their construction, Hopkins’ homes will actually be built over a layer of carstone that will not now be quarried, because of this unnecessary expansion of Hunstanton – including three-storey ‘town houses’ in open countryside - when two less obtrusive sites are readily available that would leave the town with a much more compact and cohesive community.
With so many obvious examples of the demonstrable harm that will be caused if this development goes ahead, Heacham Parish Council would be fully justified in seeking judicial review of the borough planning committee’s perverse decision.
With last week’s Turnstone column in mind, I would expect any such action to have the backing of Civic Voice, together with support from Planning Minister Brandon Lewis and Henry Bellingham MP.