Watlington homes bid approved after councillor’s plea for new neighbourhood plans

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Communities in West Norfolk have been urged to draw up their own visions for future development in order to minimise the impact of housing schemes.

The plea was made as councillors approved proposals for dozens of new homes in Watlington this week, despite concerns over the plan’s impact.

Last year, residents in Brancaster and North Wootton approved neighbourhood plans drawn up by their parish councils, which must be taken into account when planning applications are put forward.

Similar plans are also being drawn up in other areas, such as Holme-next-the-Sea.

Parishes with adopted neighbourhood plans will also receive a 25 per cent share of monies generated by the borough council’s proposed community infrastructure levy in their areas, instead of 15 per cent in areas without one.

And, addressing Tuesday’s planning committee meeting, chairman Vivienne Spikings said communities like Watlington should pursue the idea to help mitigate the effects of current applications.

She said: “We are as hamstrung as you when we sit here.

“I do have sympathy with the villages, but we have to go with the legislation that is in front of us.”

The latest plan, from Bennett Homes, allows for 40 new homes to be built off Mill Road.

The committee voted to approve the scheme, subject to legal agreements relating to issues including the provision of affordable housing, open space, library contributions and drainage maintenance being completed by August.

Particular concerns were raised over the safety of cyclists and pedestrians using Mill Road and the impact on local drainage systems.

Resident Mark Harding also accused one of the landowners of “hypocrisy” for objecting to a planning application in Runcton Holme.

And the parish council claimed the scheme would set “an undesirable precedent” for similar proposals.

However, the authority also called for the developer to make a £40,000 contribution towards the provision of a new multi-use games area (MUGA) for the village if permission was granted, a move welcomed by committee member Chris Crofts.

He said the village was always likely to attract developers, because of its position on the rail line to London.

But he added: “They’re trying to take advantage of it and it’s what the village should do.”