Last Tuesday evening I attended the planning meeting at Downham Town Hall with regard to the Nightingale application of 170 houses to be increased to 300. I am not on the planning committee at the borough council, however I think I have understood a few points:
1. Unless an application falls foul of national planning guidelines it cannot be refused.
2. The need for doctors, dentists, schools and any other relevant services do not constitute part of the requirements of a planning application or form part of the reason to fail them.
3. If the borough council fails to approve an application then the developer can appeal and as long as the developer has adhered to the necessary guidelines, the refusal will be overruled and that will be at a cost to the borough council, which is in effect to you all.
I am a relative newcomer to Downham. I arrived in 1978, quite a while before many of those at that meeting. The areas being built on were even then in the pipeline to be developed. However at that time there was not a need for housing which we have now.
Developers will, as anyone else who can make a pound, try to get as much for their land as they can, therefore everything will be crammed in. If the town council had a Neighbourhood Plan that would help as it can be used by the borough planning department as a steer for applications.
If the houses built were not sold immediately, many off plan, then the developers would go elsewhere. It is supply and demand and the demand is very high.
I used to live in a market town with individual shops, it had character, I no longer live in the same place. I’m not happy with the way Downham has changed, however I have to accept it, it is called progress and change and many hate both those words. Yes, the town council will refuse on our behalf. However blaming the borough planning committee for approving the plans is not the answer.
Lobby your doctors’ surgery and your dental surgery, they are private functions, and ask how another can be built in the locality. Lobby your MP and ask what can be done to move these functions forward. Education is a county role, let’s have a free school. There have been moves for this before but stalled by others who feel the pupils would be cherry picked and the old schools left behind. These are ideas I have heard in the past, perhaps it’s time to resurrect them? It is simple to sit and complain but making a stand can be effective and solve the problem for future generations.
Kathy Mellish, Downham Market