Letters: Bill Welch & others, March 24, 2015

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Your readers may be aware that West Norfolk Council is currently going through a process to identify land for housing development. The process has been going on for about four years.

The council has identified its favoured site for development in Castle Acre at the north end of Massingham Road. Part of the site is in a conservation area. It is entirely unsuitable for the council’s plan to build 15 houses on the site.

Not least amongst the many reasons for this is the fact that the council has a statutory responsibility “to have particular regard to the desirability of preserving and enhancing the character of the conservation area”. However it is clear that that responsibility cannot be met because of the detrimental affect that the proposed development would have on the main feature of this part of the conservation area being a fine old Grade 2 listed barn.

The process by which the council has got to this point has been a shambles and is characterised by the latest draft of its “site allocations pre submission document” which according to the council has already gone through “previous stages of preparation and consultation”.

This document, available to view on the council’s website, confirms that; the council believes that Castle Acre is “five miles south of Swaffham” when the rest of us know it is to the north of Swaffham.

The council believes that there are no houses on the site when in fact there are three, two of which English Heritage has formally asked the council not to demolish but which would need to be demolished to accommodate the development proposals.

The council believes that the proposed development “would not be visually intrusive” when in fact it would obscure the only good long distance view of the listed barn.

The council believes that the field on which it proposes to allow development is unplanted when in fact it is planted.

It is hardly surprising the that both parts of the listed barn are now up for sale.

If the owners ever had any faith in the council’s ability to meet its statutory obligation in respect of the conservation area anybody can guess that it disappeared at the same time as the council’s latest document appeared.

Moreover it is absolutely clear that after four years the council has based its decision to allocate this site on the basis of a lamentable lack of knowledge about the site or even where it is. This quite simply undermines any confidence there may be in the council and brings it into disrepute.

Correspondence sent to the District Council on this matter has met with no response. It is surely time for our councillor and Castle Acre Parish Council to stand up for the interests of our village and to insist that the borough drop this misconceived and ill-informed plan and restart the process from scratch in dialogue with local people who actually have some knowledge of the matter.

Bill Welch, Angela Finlay, Darryle Watridge, Anita Watridge, Justine Watridge,

Castle Acre