West Norfolk planning inquiry halted on first day amid environment assessment fears

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An inquiry into plans for housing development in West Norfolk was halted on its first day yesterday amid concerns on whether environmental issues had been properly addressed.

Campaigners who are fighting a controversial housing scheme in North Lynn and Gaywood say the development reinforces their lack of confidence in the borough council’s handling of the plan.

But council officials say they sought the adjournment in order to address the concerns raised.

The hearing at Lynnsport, which began on Tuesday and had been scheduled to last for up to 10 days during the course of July, was due to examine the authority’s proposed site allocations for housing developments in the borough for the period up to 2026.

The plan envisages around 6,500 new homes being built across the borough during that time, with around two thirds of them being in Lynn or immediate surrounding areas, including the Woottons, West Winch and North Runcton and West Lynn.

Almost 1,300 homes are planned for the other main settlements, with 550 in fringe areas around Wisbech, 390 in Downham and 333 in Hunstanton.

The remaining houses, around 1,000, will be divided between more than 50 villages across the borough, with many smaller hamlets seeing no development at all.

But the inquiry, which has to determine whether the council’s framework is sound or not, has now been adjourned for up to six months because of concerns over the assessments made under habitat regulations as part of the plan.

A council spokesman said: “In the short term, we will take the opportunity to clarify our position and provide further information to the Inspector in writing.

“We are seeking the adjournment so that we can undertake some further research.

“This will enable us to fully explore the implications of the Inspector’s comments with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the RSPB in particular so that we can demonstrate that we have a robust mechanism in place for mitigating the impact of growth on wildlife habitats.”

Sue Bruce, secretary of the Lynnsport Area Residents’ Association (LARA), which opposes the council’s proposed housing developments in the Lynnsport and Marsh Lane areas, welcomed the adjournment.

She said: “It’s good news for us, but they’re still going to want to come back and change it.”

She said the concerns raised also confirmed many of the fears they had raised about the Lynnsport scheme, adding: “It doesn’t give people confidence.”

Meanwhile, West Winch parish council chairman Paul Foster, who lost his borough council seat at May’s elections, said he had called for the issues to be reviewed during a scrutiny meeting last November.

He asked: “How much taxpayer’s money is now going to be wasted trying to put this right?”