Cases made against controversial Knights Hill housing plans as public inquiry gets underway
Former North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham said an application for 600 homes has caused the most opposition he has ever known as a four-day public inquiry began in Lynn today.
Round-table discussions took place between West Norfolk Council and appellants for the Knights Hill planning application for housing on Grimston Road.
A public inquiry will run until Friday at the Knights Hill Hotel after agents for the application challenged the council's decision to refuse planning permission last year.
Sir Henry, who stood down as MP in December and his successor and fellow Conservative James Wild were among those who spoke out against the application as the inquiry began this morning.
Sir Henry said: "I have been involved in hundreds of planning appeals and thousands of applications and I have never known one that has moved residents to so much anger, and which has caused so much opposition before.
"Extra housing will put quite intolerable pressure on Grimston Road which is a mistake from hell for people living there, and it will have an adverse impact on the image of King's Lynn."
He continued: "You have to go with the grain of public opposition. You can't go against the thousands of people who think this will have a detrimental impact."
Mr Wild also spoke as an interested party during the morning session of the inquiry, raising concerns over congestion levels, emissions and missed GP appointments if the application was passed.
He said: "This was one of the first issues raised to me when I was selected as a candidate. This application is on such a scale that as MP, I have unusually decided to get involved.
"I think it is right as an elected MP that I am here to stand against it."
Anthony Crean QC, speaking on behalf of the development, told the inquiry the application would deliver affordable housing in an area of "acknowledged deficit".
He also claimed the proposal would enhance sustainable transport options and said it had raised no objections from Historic England.
However Tim Leader, representing West Norfolk Council, and other speakers, expressed concern over heritage assets such as the Grade I-listed Castle Rising Castle being affected by the homes.
Mr Leader said the castle and surrounding setting, which includes a deer park, medieval hunting ground and extensive warrens, remain legible in the landscape and provide a "unique window into the past".
He also said the council would show the inquiry that the applicant's desire for planting on the landscape would "harm rather than enhance" the castle setting.
Several speakers including Mr Leader highlighted West Norfolk Council was on track with its current housing delivery for the borough meaning this latest development was "unnecessary".
And David Price, chairman of South Wootton Parish Council, said 660 new properties have already been granted planning permission at four separate locations within the village over the past two years.
Mr Price added that more housing should not be built on a Greenfield site.
Speakers also said Grimston Road serves as the only major route for lorries travelling into Lynn so extra traffic through new housing was not deemed to be sustainable.
West Norfolk councillor Michael de Whalley raised the potential impact of housing on biodiversity and wildlife, referring specifically to Roydon Common.
And former mayor and borough councillor Nick Daubney said: "This proposed development on this scale is not necessary.
"It is about making quick and easy profit rather than caring for the local community value.
"It's a local network that really warrants a dual carriageway but we know that will not happen so we have to be very careful with housing plans. Those roads are no longer exactly safe."
David Goddard, of Castle Rising Parish Council, said: "The public are familiar with long tailbacks when queuing on Grimston Road. There are major air quality problems and transportation is a major contributor to emissions.
"West Norfolk has the highest per capita CO2 emissions in the county, and it is higher than the national average.
"It is completely pointless to build new homes just to put them into the traffic. It would gridlock major routes serving our local economy and stop-starts will cause harmful emissions in our village."
Mr Crean's earlier submission on behalf of the appellant had stated: "If not here, then where? The local plan process has carefully assessed all options for development to come forward within the plan period to meet housing needs which have been identified.
"There is no such thing as a site which does not cause harm and the process underlying the local plan has sifted the various candidates and arrived at the appeal site as offering the maximum advantages to the public interest when all matters are balanced against each other."
John Marshall-Grint, vice-chairman of North Wootton Parish Council, raised the current demand on the Queen Elizabeth Hospital which he believes would be exacerbated by more homes.
Deliberations will begin after chairwoman of the inquiry Roisin Barrett has heard all the evidence and conducted a site visit on Friday.