West Norfolk housing bids ‘must protect wildlife’, committee warned

General view of land near 5 Black Horse Road, Clenchwarton ANL-160404-124953009
General view of land near 5 Black Horse Road, Clenchwarton ANL-160404-124953009

Developers and councillors are “no better” than African ivory traders if they don’t protect vital habitats in West Norfolk from housing schemes, a meeting has heard.

The stark warning was delivered as a bid to build up dozens of new homes on a site in Clenchwarton was debated yesterday.

But a decision was deferred for a site visit to take place later this week after further concerns were raised about traffic in the area.

The developers, described in agenda papers as clients of Swann Edwards, were seeking outline consent for up to 45 homes on a site south of Wildfields Close and west of 5 Black Horse Road.

And West Norfolk Council’s planning committee heard assurances from their agent, Russell Swann, that mitigating measures would be put in place for wildlife.

But neighbour Deborah McGowan warned that vital habitats for rare bats, hedgehogs and other species would be lost if the scheme was approved.

She said the site was well known as arelease area for hedgehogs and warned that bats would only use the bat boxes proposed by the applicant in addition to their existing habitats.

She added: “If we don’t care for our wildlife alongside people’s need for houses, that means we’re no better than the ivory traders in Africa.

“This is really important and, if we neglect them, we won’t get them back.”

The committee also heard that flood risks for the site had been assessed to be lower than those at the village’s former Fosters sports ground, where plans for a similar number of homes to this site were rejected by the committee earlier this year.

And Mr Swann said an agreement had already been reached with county roads officials for the road to be widened and a footpath to be installed as part of the scheme.

But local county councillor Alexandra Kemp said the transport assessment had failed to take the impact of the proposal on other routes, particularly Station Road which leads to the A17, into account.

And committee member Chris Crofts called for a site visit to be made because of the complexities of the proposal.

He said: “I don’t feel comfortable taking a decision on this without seeing it.”

The visit, which will now take place on Friday, was passed on the casting vote of committee chairman Vivienne Spikings after the initial vote ended seven apiece.