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Council committee backs Parkway plan – but Government intervention could extend the battle



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Contentious plans for more than 200 new homes in Gaywood have been backed by councillors today – but the fight may not be over yet.

Members of West Norfolk Council's planning committee voted 11 to five, with one abstention to approve the authority's own proposal for 226 properties off Parkway, subject to legal agreements being completed, this lunchtime.

But there remains a glimmer of hope for campaigners fighting the scheme following a Government intervention this morning.

Protest meeting at the proposed New Housing Development for the Gaywood Area...Land next to King's Lynn Academy Site on Queen Mary Road/Parkway Gaywood. (55000980)
Protest meeting at the proposed New Housing Development for the Gaywood Area...Land next to King's Lynn Academy Site on Queen Mary Road/Parkway Gaywood. (55000980)

The meeting at Lynn's town hall was temporarily paused amid questions over the lack of a second emergency access route in and out of the site.

Conservative members Tony Bubb and Martin Storey both raised concerns about the issue, with the latter calling for the issue to be deferred.

At the same time, it emerged that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities had informed the council that it had received a request from an unnamed party for the application to be called in for it to make the final decision.

In a letter, which has since been published by the borough authority, the department asked for the council not to issue a formal decision notice of permission, if it voted to approve the scheme, until it had decided whether to intervene or not.

Before the debate began, committee member Tom Ryves called for a decision on the plan to be delegated to another council altogether.

He highlighted the council's status as both applicant and landowner in the case, as well as standards complaints relating to the original application for the area last year, some of which are now subject to a police investigation.

Legal officers advised the committee that planning law does allow for authorities to decide on their own applications.

But county councillor Rob Colwell said he was uncomfortable with a situation where the developer was also the authority that sets planning policy and decides which sites should be built on.

He added: "To the outside person it looks like a money-making stitch-up with no regard to the lives of local people."

Resident Christine Merry also accused developers of ignoring the needs of people who already live in the area by pursuing the plan.

She said the scheme appeared to be "the opposite of levelling up", adding: "We want to save our Gaywood."

But development portfolio holder Richard Blunt said £1.7 million would be spent on environmental mitigation measures that went "above and beyond" what was required.

He added: "We can build not only homes, but a community."

Independent councillor Jo Rust said she felt she was being "taken for a fool" by claims that the development would not affect air quality in the area and proposed refusal.

Her group colleague, Sandra Squire, also highlighted the warning that financial contributions of nearly £1 million for school places would make the site "unviable" if they were implemented.

She said rising costs could turn the site into "a noose around our neck", adding: "We can't afford that."

The meeting was told that a grant from Homes England to develop the land would make it viable to proceed.

Other speakers also highlighted flood risk concerns, after Mr Colwell had earlier said it was "shocking" that some residents would be advised to seek refuge on upper floors in the event of flooding beyond two metres depth.

Mrs Squire said she would not condemn people to live with flood risk and argued that the fact the site was allocated for development in 2016 did not mean this plan should proceed.

But former council deputy leader Elizabeth Nockolds questioned how some of her colleagues could talk about issues such as traffic when homes were needed.

She said: "It's just what King's Lynn needs to continue to have a sustainable town."

Committee chairman Vivienne Spikings also argued the development would allow flood risk issues to be tackled.

She said: "This floods now but we're going to address it. We have to have homes."

And former committee chairman Chris Crofts dismissed several of the concerns raised by opponents as "extreme".

He suggested the council was going much further that private developers would in providing infrastructure such as car charging points.

He concluded: "I think it's highly desirable and will be a pleasant place to live."



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