Turnstone, by John Maiden, November 17, 2015

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There can be absolutely no doubt that Hunstanton has far more in common with north Norfolk than with Lynn or the Fens. And last Thursday’s decision by north Norfolk council to refuse permission for 200 new homes at Sculthorpe is further proof that NW Norfolk should have been included in north Norfolk when local government was reorganised in 1974.

As things stand, the inhabitants of Heacham and Hunstanton are going to be inconvenienced and the environment between the two settlements seriously harmed by a decision that could be even more difficult to rectify than the pier fiasco! In granting permission for 166 new dwellings on land north of Hunstanton Road Heacham, accessed via a roundabout on the A149, west Norfolk council’s planning committee ignored perfectly sound objections put forward until quite recently by its own officers and the local highway authority.

Even more damning was the failure to take account of the reasons given by Planning Inspector Joanna Reid for refusing a remarkably similar application to build on land near Stainsby’s garage in Heacham, accessed from School Road, which would have caused similar harm had it gone ahead.

When giving her verdict the Inspector noted that this site is outside the development limits of Heacham and therefore within the countryside. The openness of the site and the surrounding countryside contributes positively to the setting of the village, and to the character of the area as a whole. The A149 is an important tourist route, used by many people each year travelling to and from the Norfolk coast. The local distinctiveness of the countryside on both sides of this road is important to the appreciation of the mainly rural landscape.

A suburban appearance would be out of keeping with the character of the countryside, and because the development would erode the important rural openness, the proposal would harmfully intrude into the countryside. Due to its poor relationship and minimal connectivity with the village, its incongruous appearance would be a discordant addition to the compact form of Heacham. Thus, the development would harm the open setting of the village, and it would harmfully increase the prominence of the village in views from the A149. The same applies in even greater measure to the harmful impact 166 new dwellings would have on open countryside south of Hunstanton.

The Inspector considered the proposal would harm the character and appearance of the surrounding area. It would be contrary to Policy CS12 of the council Core Strategy, which aims for new development to be sensitive to the surrounding area, and for proposals to demonstrate that their location will protect and enhance special qualities and local distinctiveness of the area in line with the National Planning Policy Framework. This aims to take account of the roles and character of different areas, recognising the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside.

The proposed development would compromise the aim of local policy to achieve sustainable patterns of development, including small groups of dwellings that comply with other relevant policies, empowering local people to shape their 
surroundings with succinct local plans setting out a positive vision for the future of the area.

Any economic gains 
would be outweighed by the environmental harm the proposal would cause to 
the character and appearance of the surrounding area, due to its poor location in relation to the village. Therefore, the proposal would not amount to sustainable development.

There can be no doubt that had the Hopkins Homes application been refused, as it should have been, an appeal would have failed for the reasons outlined above.

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