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MP George Freeman: Minister should decide on controversial Wymondham homes bid

PUBLISHED: 11:25 21 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:25 21 February 2014

The Friends of the Tiffey gather outside the proposed housing development in Chapel Lane, Wymondham.

The Friends of the Tiffey gather outside the proposed housing development in Chapel Lane, Wymondham.

Archant

A cabinet minister has been urged to directly intervene in deciding whether a controversial plan to build new homes on land overlooking Wymondham Abbey should go ahead.

Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman, who represents the area, wrote to communities secretary Eric Pickles to ask him to take back jurisdiction for the decision on whether the 70 new homes in the River Tiffey valley should be built.

Government planning inspector Jeremy Sargent has been holding a public inquiry into the proposals after the applicant, the Fairfield Partnership, appealed against South Norfolk Council’s decision to refuse the plans on the grounds they would significantly harm the landscape of the Tiffey Valley.

In a letter to Mr Pickles, Mr Freeman said: “As such a very special site and with a previous appeal refused some years ago, my constituents would have felt reasonably confident that planning permission would have been refused for residential development.”

“However, my constituents and I have been very concerned about rather dismissive remarks from the inspector and there is a growing concern that planning permission might actually be granted.”

Mr Freeman said that would have a devastating impact on the community, as: “The site falls within probably the most valuable landscape and historic setting in the whole of South Norfolk.”

Mr Sargent is due to make a decision on whether or not to approve the development in Chapel Lane, Wymondham in March after reviewing evidence from the public inquiry, which sat for four days in October last year and resumed for a further two days earlier this month.

However Mr Freeman has asked Mr Pickles to “call in” the application.

If Mr Pickles agrees, it would mean that the application is referred to him for the final decision.

“As such a truly outstanding site within South Norfolk in terms of the valley landscape and the setting of Wymondham Abbey, the grant of planning permission here would send a devastating message to the people of Wymondham and South Norfolk,” Mr Freeman told Mr Pickles in his letter.

“I hope you will carefully consider recovering jurisdiction on the appeal decision-making from the inspector.”

Mr Pickles has powers to call in decisions that give rise to “significant public controversy”.

What do you think about the Chapel Lane plans? Tell reporter Andrew Papworth by calling 01379 651153 or email andrew.papworth@archant.co.uk

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