Anger in South Walsham over planning ‘blunder’

Angry villagers have accused a Norfolk council of a costly planning blunder resulting in a farmer being able to put up an unsightly cattle shelter in picturesque Broadland countryside.

Following a two-year courts battle, the Court of Appeal has ruled that South Walsham farmer David Murrell can put up the shelter in rolling countryside off the village's Hemblington Road - because Broadland District Council failed to respond to his planning application within the required 28 days.

The council has always argued that Mr Murrell's original application was invalid because he submitted insufficient information and that it wrote to him within 28 days to tell him so; after receiving the extra information its decision to reject the plan came after 31 days.

When Mr Murrell appealed against planning refusal for the shelter, which will measure 30m long, 6m wide and 6m high, the planning inspectorate upheld the council's decision. The High Court also sided with the council when he asked for a judicial review of the inspectorate's decision.

However, following the Appeal Court's overturning decision, Broadland council has conceded it would not be in the public interest to challenge its verdict.

South Walsham Parish Council chairman Ken Turner said: 'Everyone agrees this is the wrong place. It is beautiful, rolling, quiet countryside where people walk their dogs and cycle. And it will also spoil the wonderful view from Hemblington churchyard.'

Villagers also feared that, following the pattern of other local examples, the cattle shed would soon be followed by applications for other buildings such as a stockman's house.

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Mr Turner said: 'As a parish council we voted against this on every occasion and had concerned representation from Hemblington at every meeting.

'We recognise Mr Murrell has followed the rules and is exercising his rights; it is the council that has failed to do its job and someone should take responsibility for the mistake.'

Phil Courtier, Broadland council's head of development management and conservation, said: 'We are very disappointed by the Court of Appeal's decision when our actions were supported at every previous stage.

'It is particularly disappointing that the building will now be erected in a position we don't consider appropriate. However I don't think it would be in the public interest to challenge the decision at the expense of local council tax payers when it is likely to be unsuccessful.'

Council spokesman Alison Falconer said the costs of the courts battle - which the EDP understands could approach a six-figure sum - would be borne by the planning inspectorate and not by Broadland council tax payers.

The EDP attempted to contact Mr Murrell but he was yesterday unavailable for comment.