Property proposals at former home of Norfolk cricket recommended for approval - as questions are raised over developer’s ‘strong arm’ tactics

PUBLISHED: 12:00 07 February 2013

Archive photo of the Lakenham Cricket Pavilion, which is set to be demolished under the housing proposals. Photo: Angela Sharpe

Archive photo of the Lakenham Cricket Pavilion, which is set to be demolished under the housing proposals. Photo: Angela Sharpe

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Proposals for 75 properties at the former home of Norfolk cricket have been recommended for approval.

But representatives of landowner Serruys Property Company have been accused of planning to use “strong arm” tactics to help the proposals at the former Lakenham Cricket Ground site, off Carshalton Road, receive permission from Norwich City Council.

Email exchanges show Lanpro, the planning agent representing Serruys, agreeing to the council’s request for an £80,000 open space contribution to refurbish and maintain tennis courts at Lakenham recreation ground.

But Lanpro stated while it believed this request was higher than expected, its client was willing to pay “on the basis that this removes the holding objection from Sport England and the application is recommended for approval and approved by members at the planning committee”.

Philip Atkinson, Lanpro director, added the open space contribution offer would be reduced to £32,000, in line with the applicant’s average estimate for the tennis court work, if the plan was refused by the planning committee for “political reasons” and an appeal had to be made. He added the car club money would also be reduced, putting a total of £80,375 “at risk”.

Local authorities hold discussions with developers during applications to request grants and cash for community facilities.

But Patrick Manning, Labour city councillor for Lakenham, said: “I think the email from Lanpro is unfortunate in a couple of ways. First it suggests they are planning to use strong arm tactics to smooth the application through.

“The reference which presupposes it will be refused for political reasons is presumptuous and disrespectful to the democratic process.”

He added: “A casual reader might be slightly alarmed by the phraseology used but I am sure it’s nothing the planner members have not seen before.”

Numerous objections have been lodged by neighbours to the proposal, with some planning to speak at next Thursday’s meeting at City Hall. The Lakenham plan will not be discussed before 11am.

The number of houses proposed increased from 65 to 75 in December. A five-a-side football pitch, allotments, park land and playgrounds are also in the designs.

Lanpro’s Mr Atkinson said: “Our estimation of the level of financial contribution required to enable the Lakenham scheme to proceed is significantly less than that requested by Norwich City Council.

“Given the lack of time remaining in the planning process, and to avoid a complex negotiation in the run-up to the planning committee, my client has offered to pay the amounts requested in full.

“If the application is ultimately refused planning permission contrary to officer recommendation then sufficient time exists to re-negotiate the contributions payable to a level that is both fair and reasonable. This is a normal part of the planning process.”

A Norwich City Council spokeswoman said they could not be responsible for the way in which a developer chooses to approach negotiations or the language they use, but said their planning officers are “consummate professionals”.

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