West Norfolk councillor calls for power to force developers to build permitted housing schemes

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A West Norfolk councillor has demanded more powers for local authorities to force developers to build on sites where they have been given planning permission.

The call came as a proposal for 50 new homes in West Lynn was turned down this week, after planning officials had deemed it unnecessary, due to the recent allocation of other sites in the area.

But developers insisted their plans for the land could be delivered faster than those for other nearby sites.

And, during Monday’s meeting of the borough council planning committee, Geoffrey Wareham told his colleagues he was frustrated by the lack of progress on other schemes.

He said: “We need some sort of power that we can go back to these sites and say ‘Build out or lose it.’

“Until that happens, we’re never going to satisfy people’s needs for housing.”

Committee members voted 10 to one to reject the scheme to develop land off Clenchwarton Road, submitted by George Goddard Ltd.

Planning officials had argued that the position of the site outside the settlement boundary, and the allocation of other development sites in West Lynn, meant the scheme was not needed.

They said the site should instead be brought forward for consideration in the drafting of the borough’s next local plan, for which a call for sites was issued last month.

But ward councillor Charles Joyce, who asked for the scheme to be put to the committee, said the settlement boundary argument was “weak”, considering that permission had previously been given for the Poppyfields estate, which also lay outside the boundary.

The applicant’s agent, Adrian Parker, also insisted the scheme should be allowed to proceed, arguing it should be seen as a windfall site.

He pointed out that the scheme had three times fewer objections than other local schemes.

He also dismissed officers’ suggestions the scheme should be rejected on flood risk grounds, claiming the land is protected by a medieval sea bank.

He said: “It’s quite wrong to trot out flood risk reasons.”

But planning director Geoff Hall said sites that were not allocated for development would have to be exceptional in order to allow a development of this type.

He said: “There’s nothing exceptional about this site.”

Neighbouring resident Christopher Skinner, who spoke against the scheme, warned of the potential for environmental damage and loss of habitat, despite the proposed provision of a new pond on the site.

He also voiced traffic concerns, highlighting the string of collision which happened at the junction near the entrance to the East Coast Business Park in 2012 and the ongoing campaign for a pedestrian crossing at Poppyfields, after a girl was injured in a collision with a car in 2014.

He said: “Why Highways don’t object to another junction and 14 access driveways is incomprehensible.”