Joy as inspector throws out appeal for 255-home estate
- Credit: Simon Finlay
A developer's bid to push through a 255-home estate by appealing to the Planning Inspectorate has failed.
Hopkins Homes has been wanting to build on land next to Dumpling Green in Dereham south, towards the village of Yaxham, since 2010.
After councillors on Breckland's planning committee voted down the scheme in January last year against the advice of their planning officers, Hopkins tried to have the decision overturned.
But in a ruling published on March 29, inspector Catherine Beeby listed a range of reasons the estate should not go ahead, including its visual impact and the fact the site was outside the town's settlement boundary.
But her report acknowledged the scheme would have had benefits, including 18pc affordable housing and developers' community contributions including £897,408 for education, £500,000 for the Westfield Lane railway bridge and £92,575 for health services.
The report said: "The Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have implications for the housebuilding industry, as with other sectors of the economy. The benefits identified do not outweigh the harm which I have identified."
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One opponent of the plans was Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, who said: "I’m delighted that the planning inspector has listening to all of us locally who have argued against constant urban sprawl to the south of Dereham.
"Toftwood is already gridlocked with traffic at rush hour. It’s madness to keep building on the edge of towns, on low lying ground prone to flooding, destroying a site of special habitat value."
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Simon Bryan, Hopkins' group development director, said they were disappointed with the ruling.
He said: “We believe that this proposed development would bring forward a number of much needed homes in a sustainable location.
“The application was recommended for approval by the council’s planning officer and would also bring a range of benefits to the community including significant financial contributions towards education, improvements to highways, healthcare provision and library services.
“We stand by our belief that this is a suitable location and we are now taking the time to consider our position.”
Roger Atterwill, one of the councillors on Breckland's planning committee who voted against the scheme, called the decision “very good news” for Dereham.
Mr Atterwill said: “It was an unwanted development. It didn’t form part of Breckland Council’s local plan and I thought there were real issues with infrastructure provision in that area.”
Mr Atterwill said a ‘chairman’s panel’ introduced by Breckland in 2019 had reduced the number of applications that came before the planning committee, but the Inspectorate’s decision showed how vital it was for big schemes to come under extra scrutiny.
Ian Martin, chairman of Yaxham Parish Council and Breckland councillor, said there was no way the development including some three-storey homes would have followed the council's policy of recognising "the intrinsic character and beauty of the of the countryside".
Chris Couves, Yaxham resident and parish council member, said: “This is fantastic news. The application would have had a significant impact on both Yaxham and Dereham, particularly an increase in traffic flow around the village and into Dereham around the Tesco roundabout. Its environmental effects would have also been significant.”