Approval for controversial Wymondham housing development

Controversial plans to build up to 350 new homes on the edge of Wymondham were narrowly awarded approval tonight.

Councillor William Kemp, chairman of South Norfolk Council's planning committee, said he 'reluctantly' gave a casting vote in favour of the development over fears that a decision to refuse the application would not stand up at appeal inflicting a financial burden on the taxpayer.

Outline proposals to build the homes on 18.1 hectares (44.7 acres) of land off Norwich Common, submitted by Landstock Estates Ltd and Landowners Group, had met with opposition from Wymondham Town Council, Hethersett Parish Council, Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman and nearby residents.

Despite the application contravening a number of local planning policies, Paul Whitham, development control services manager at South Norfolk Council, said these were outweighed by the fact the district is lacking a five-year land supply for development as laid down by central government.

The proposed site also sits immediately north of land owned by Persimmon Homes – recently named Beckets Grove – where a development of 323 dwellings is due to be built, which was given approval after an independent inspector overturned the councillors' original refusal at appeal because of the deficit in the district's land supply.

Mr Whitham said: 'I think we do have to have due regard to the situation with the five-year land supply. An inspector has previously allowed planning permission contrary to policy because of the issue and you would find it very difficult to support a refusal at appeal.'

During this evening's meeting, Wymondham Town Mayor Neil Ward and Wymondham Town Council clerk Trevor Gurney voiced concerns about the erosion of the gap between Wymondham and Hethersett, and the site's sustainability due to its distance from the town centre.

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There was a plea from Inspector James Brown, of Norfolk Constabulary, for a financial contribution to support the policing of the two housing sites, which also sit next to the Whispering Oaks development where another 375 homes are being constructed.

Councillor Colin Foulger, who represents Wymondham, added: 'I feel the two sites, plus Whispering Oaks, do not add any heartbeat to Wymondham.

'Wymondham is an old town, and although no-one wants it to stagnate or want to be NIMBYs, it just seems like a cynical attempt to use the five-year land supply and to look down on the people of Wymondham.'

Lee Newlyn, planning agent representing the applicants, argued that the development would be sustainable and regenerate the local economy.

He said: 'Up to 350 dwellings would equate to about 850 people using their cash in the local community and creating employment resulting in 60 service jobs and 20 retail jobs.

'It will result in the stimulation of the economy with about �2m of additional retail spend and creating 440sqm of new retail space.'