Council warned of public ‘distrust and anger’ over West Winch homes U-turn

GV of the Gravel Hill site in West Winch (site is open field on the corner of Hall Lane and Gravel Hill) ANL-151009-132220009
GV of the Gravel Hill site in West Winch (site is open field on the corner of Hall Lane and Gravel Hill) ANL-151009-132220009
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There is “growing distrust and anger” among villagers over plans to reinstate a contentious site in future housing plans, community leaders have warned.

Parish, borough and county council officials in West Winch have united against proposals to put the Gravel Hill site back into West Norfolk Council’s development framework.

But members of the authority’s ruling cabinet backed the move at a meeting yesterday, despite concerns about the density of any future development.

The site was initially removed from the authority’s development programme in 2013 following opposition from local residents and one of the village’s then borough councillors.

But a report published last month revealed that the site’s owners, Zurich Assurance Ltd, had called for a rethink, claiming the site was critical for enabling the construction of a new relief road and other infrastructure needed to sustain the 1,600 homes envisaged in the area.

They also argued that removing the site threatened the viability of the entire scheme.

Officials have recommended the site’s restoration in the plan, following a re-assessment.

But, in a letter to the cabinet, West Winch parish council asked: “Should the borough council’s Cabinet members be allowing themselves to be manipulated by a land owner whose sole aim is to sell their land for the highest possible price?”

Local county councillor Alexandra Kemp described plans to build on the site, part of which is deemed to be in a high flood risk area, as “absolute madness.”

And, during the meeting, ward councillor Bal Anota said: “There’s a lot of feeling in West Winch of distrust and anger about this reinstatement of the Gravel Hill site.

“There are only two access points onto the site which both feed onto the A10 and residents feel this is already such a busy road that this will only exacerbate the problem.”

Deputy leader Alistair Beales said he acknowledged the concerns raised, but said the site would help to secure much of the new infrastructure needed for wider development in the area.

Alan Gomm, the council’s local development framework manager, added that parts of individual sites which were assessed as being of high flood risk could be maintained as open space in order to address those fears.

The meeting was also told that residents would have a further opportunity to raise their concerns about the move when the public inquiry into the council’s development framework proposals resumes on September 30.

There will also be a six week public consultation period on changes made to the plan.