A major housing development in a protected area has been approved despite concerns it would see the loss of habitat for wildlife.

North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) has approved plans for homes to be built between Overstand Road and Northrepps Road in Cromer. 

The proposal will see 118 homes and 60 specialist elderly care places built on a 15.8 acre site in an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) near the town's Happy Valley and golf course. 

AONBs are designated zones which have extra protections against development.   

The site was once part of the golf course but it has gone unused for around 20 years and started to rewild. 

Eastern Daily Press: An image of Gladman's proposed development off Overstrand Road in CromerAn image of Gladman's proposed development off Overstrand Road in Cromer (Image: Gladman)

Some 45pc of the homes will be classed as “affordable”. 

Several locals spoke out against the plan, calling for the protection of wildlife and the AONB. 

Michael Wiggins, a neighbour, said the development would “break up” a green corridor which helps support animals and is important for the environment. 

“In the initial stages this site has been allocated as waste ground but it is far from that,” he said. 

“Wildlife transit this area to go from place to place, a development would break that completely. 

“The surrounding areas depend on that old golf course. 

“This area should be conserved for the future with regard to climate change, biodiversity and the natural area.” 

Another neighbour also argued the plans would allow people in the care homes to look into people’s properties, and stated they did not believe that all the affordable homes would be built. 

Eastern Daily Press: Tim Adams, leader of NNDC and a Cromer CouncillorTim Adams, leader of NNDC and a Cromer Councillor (Image: Archant)

Tim Adams, the leader of NNDC and a Cromer town councillor, called for the application to be deferred, saying the developer had not demonstrated the site could be developed without any impact on flooding. 

He said: “The promoters of the site have not been able to demonstrate that yet and it can be confirmed that no intrusive investigation works can occur until it is established that there is no ordnance on the site, the site having had some close connection with wartime training activities.” 

Mr Adams, also argued the developer should improve the pavements to the north of the site, which are not wide enough for pushchairs. 

Eastern Daily Press: The parcel of land in the middle will be developed The parcel of land in the middle will be developed (Image: Google)

Victoria Richardson, a speaker on behalf of the development, said there have been no objections from consultees, which includes the flooding authority and highways team at Norfolk County Council. 

She also argued the site does not exhibit the “defined characteristics” of the AONB and that development would be acceptable under national planning rules.

NNDC planning officials also spoke in favour of the scheme, saying the authority is currently unable to meet its required five-year supply of land for housing and approval would help bring them closer to the target.

“On balance that overrides both the countryside and the undeveloped coast consideration,” one said.  

Councillors discussed the scheme for almost two and a half hours, with many saying they would “reluctantly” side with the officer’s recommendation to approve, because it would provide significant affordable housing.

Eastern Daily Press: Councillor Liz VickersCouncillor Liz Vickers (Image: North Norfolk District Council)

Conservative councillor Liz Vickers said she was persuaded by the level of such housing but said she recognised the “significant negatives” the impact of the plan would have for natural habitat. 

Sarah Butikofer, a Liberal Democrat member, said “any chance” to get 45pc affordable housing is “extremely tempting” but she had been through too many meetings where numbers had been reduced and so could not vote in favour.

The scheme was approved eight votes for, one against and four abstentions. 

The bid covers only the broad outlines of the scheme. Details relating to how the estate will look, the exact number of homes as well as drainage and biodiversity will be covered by a future submission.