Swaffham councillors demand resolution to eight-year footpath planning row

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A builder is locked in a row with council chiefs over who should pay for a footpath outside two Swaffham homes, almost eight years after planning consent was granted.

Ian Jessett, of Walnut Farm Developments, says his firm is being treated unfairly by being expected to pay more than twice the originally estimated cost of the path on North Pickenham Road.

But roads officials have dismissed the claim, while town representatives have demanded a swift end to the dispute.

Planning permission for two detached houses on the land was first granted in March 2007, before being varied in December 2010 to allow bungalows instead.

In both cases, conditions requiring highway improvements were imposed after objections from Norfolk County Council Highways officers were resolved by the proposed building of a footpath.

But Mr Jessett claims that will now cost £24,000, not the £10,000 he says the county council estimated before permission was granted.

And he told Wednesday’s town council meeting: “If they had told us it would be £24,000, we wouldn’t have agreed to the condition.”

An application to vary the terms of the permissions was rejected by Breckland Council last week on highway grounds.

And, in a letter supporting that bid, Mr Jessett said the company had already lost almost £40,000 on the project.

He said the project had been a “disaster” that the company had only just survived.

But Norfolk County Council’s Graham Worsfold said: “It is not the fault of the Highway Authority or the Planning Authority that the footway has not already been implemented and I would suggest the longer it is before works commence the more likely it is costs will continue to rise.”

Mr Jessett said he would be prepared to pay up to £14,000 for the footpath, if the remainder was covered by legal costs cut from other developments.

And district councillor Ian Sherwood said the situation needs to be resolved quickly.

He said: “Whoever needs to talk to each other, let it happen.”

Town councillor Paul Darby added: “The only thing we want is the footpath.”

But Mr Worsfold’s letter insisted: “The cost of any works required to mitigate a development proposal should be the responsibility of the developer, not the public purse.”