Following the borough’s recent planning meeting where an unprecedented number of approvals were handed out to house builders and developers, I believe that the local rural community has a right to ask who exactly is controlling the local development plan (LDP).
A paper that, at significant cost to the taxpayer and after much consultation, drew up a development commitment and strategy plan for the West Norfolk borough.
In the case of Watlington, a number of potential sites were nominated but ultimately the consultants whittled them down and came up with a proposal that satisfied the borough’s commitment and met with the approval of the community. But the story didn’t end there as you will probably gather from the community’s anger sparked by the planners’ recent U-turn, with respect to land off Mill Road, which was rejected in the original LDP.
Indeed, on learning that an outline planning application had be submitted for this meadow in October 2015, the planners received over 50 letters of opposition from the community, including the surgery and a borough councillor. Fears were raised about the planned access into the proposed development off Mill Road, a narrow ‘lane’ in parts, where residents have to park their cars.
Now, of course, a site that will accommodate 40 properties is a valuable proposition to any development firm, so in the case of Messrs Bennett, I would suggest that they allocated a sizeable budget to engage a team of highly experienced consultants to identify all areas of potential opposition and then go about systematically addressing each one. Planners have a fundamental responsibly to look after the interests of the local community they serve.
For the record, the field in question is a developers’ dream. Okay, there are issues about access and those who live along Mill Road have a right to be very concerned about the additional traffic that the development will attract, but the consultants’ solution has been accepted by the planners so the little man with big concerns can take a hike. Ironically, a condition of the permission being granted is that the scheme has to embrace open spaces, which is a bit rich when you consider that the community that currently surrounds this meadow enjoys the open space that will soon be denied to them. How hypocritical is that?
On many levels permission to develop this historic meadow should have been denied and in doing so the borough would have sent a very strong uncompromising message to every construction company that West Norfolk has a LDP in place which it intends to implement and we will not deviate from our commitment. Sorry, doors opened, on your bike.
This U-turn has set a very dangerous precedent which the likes of Bennett Homes will exploit, mark my word.
Richard Crisp, Watlington