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Plan for bungalows near West Winch petrol station 'almost criminal', says councillor

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A councillor has branded plans to build bungalows behind a petrol station on one of West Norfolk’s busiest roads as “almost criminal.”

A decision on the proposal for land near the Esso garage next to the A10 in West Winch was deferred by borough councillors yesterday, amid concerns over legal advice.

But West Norfolk Council planning committee member Tom Ryves slammed both the proposal and the advice of officials to approve it.

Tom Ryves.
Tom Ryves.

He said academic research was “highly critical” of the idea of building housing within 50 metres of a petrol station and showed pollutants could travel up to twice that distance.

Officers’ report to the committee said the nearest of the two three-bedroomed bungalows proposed would be just 18 metres from the closest fuel pump.

It also pointed out that the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service had not objected to the plan.

General view of the A10 at West Winch (44337734)
General view of the A10 at West Winch (44337734)

But Mr Ryves said: “On those grounds I think the very idea of putting a residential unit next to an active petrol station is almost criminal.

“I don’t see how anyone in their right minds can support this application.”

However, former committee chairman Vivienne Spikings was satisfied with the advice given and told her colleagues: “I feel if this went to appeal, we’d lose on this.

“These are two modest bungalows. People are crying out for these smaller homes.”

But members voted 14 to three to defer a decision amid uncertainty over whether the applicant, the Motor Fuel Group, needed to prove that it has the legal right to use a privately owned access to reach the proposed development site from the A10.

Borough officials said they had been given legal advice that the applicant did not have to prove that it had access to the road

But committee member Charles Joyce pointed out that county Highways officials were challenging that view and said that meant members were left in “a quandary” over the application.

Martin Storey added: “Surely those two authorities should have got together to decide on the correct advice to be given to this committee.”

Assistant director of planning Stuart Ashworth said the approval recommendation was based on its legal advice and the only alternative would be to defer it in order to seek further clarification.

Earlier in the meeting, community leaders voiced concerns over the potential road safety implications of allowing another access point onto the A10.

Although the application site is in the village of West Winch, it lies within the parish of North Runcton.

And Rick Morrish, chairman of North Runcton parish council, said decisions on proposed developments along the A10 were too inconsistent.

He said: “We’re getting in a muddle with all these applications along the A10. The planning policy is very vague and unclear.”

County councillor Alexandra Kemp said there had been 31 personal injury collisions on the A10 through West Winch and Setch in the last five years and access for new developments should be limited until a new relief road is built.

She also cited the findings of appeals into other applications which suggested that even one new access point would have an impact on the route’s safety.

But Andrew Dowell, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said Highways officials were satisfied the scheme would not have affect the A10.

He said: “This application is in compliance with policies at both local and national level.

“The principal of the redevelopment of this site is therefore encouraged as it will facilitate the development of a previously developed site.”

And Mrs Spikings said much more traffic would use the access if the previous commercial use of the site was reinstated.

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