UPDATE: Developer ‘considering further action’ as Heacham housing plan appeal dismissed

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Developers behind a controversial housing development in Heacham have indicated they may continue their fight after the plans were rejected by a government inspector for the second time.

Campaigners against the scheme intended for a site off School Road have today welcomed the ruling, which followed a public inquiry in May.

But representatives of the applicants, Townsfolk and Broadland Housing, say they are “extremely disappointed” by the decision.

Andrew Savage, executive partnership drector for Broadland, said: “We believe this decision goes against the increasing community need to deliver affordable elderly accommodation in the area.

“We will seek feedback on why this decision was taken so that we can consider next steps as appropriate.”

But North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham said it was a “great day” for the local community.

He said: “It is really quite superb news which will be very warmly welcomed by vast numbers of local residents.

“When I gave evidence at the public inquiry, it was obvious to me that the whole community was united against this proposed development. It was totally out of scale, ill thought out, and deeply unpopular.”

The developers had been seeking permission to build 70 new homes, 60 sheltered housing units and a 60-bed care home.

West Norfolk Council’s decision to reject the scheme in February 2014 was initially upheld at an earlier appeal.

But the case was re-opened when the borough council was was deemed not to have an adequate supply of housing land in relation to a housing scheme in Clenchwarton.

Lawyers acting for the developers argued that, despite the council claiming it had reached the necessary five-year supply ahead of the inquiry, it had not produced any evidence to justify its assertion.

But, in his ruling, planning inspector David Spencer said the authority could prove it had sufficient land available.

He said: “It is clear from the evidence before me that the Clenchwarton decision has influenced how subsequent housing proposals have been assessed.

“However, 16 months have now passed since that decision during which time circumstances have materially changed.”

He said the council could not be accused of being “complacent” in its efforts to reach house building targets, but also highlighted what he described as a record of “persistent under delivery.”

Mr Spencer also rejected the developers’ claim that the scheme would not harm the character and appearance of the area.

He said: “The scale and depth of the appeal proposal means there would be an evident and direct loss of openness and a harmful conglomeration with sporadic rural buildings.

“It would appear as a poorly integrated extension and new edge to the settlement which would fail to relate well to the existing settlement pattern to this part of the village edge.”

One of the applicants’ main grounds of appeal was what they described as the “chronic” need for specialist accommodation for elderly people in the area.

The inspector acknowledged that refusal of the application meant some of those needs would still not be met, but said the range of alternative sites being put forward did not suggest there would be any inequality as a result.

Richard Blunt, West Norfolk Council cabinet member for development, said: “We are very pleased with the outcome of this inquiry.

“The inspector has agreed that we have a land supply in excess of five years, which is excellent news.

“It means that planning applications for housing will continue to be assessed against our existing and emerging local plans and policies, which have been endorsed as being up to date.”