Plan for 54 homes in 'rural gap' is rejected by council

Timothy Birt, George Freeman and land in Saham Toney

Both councillor Timothy Birt, lower inset, and George Freeman MP had raised objections to the plan to build the 54 homes on land off Swaffham Road, on the edge of Watton. - Credit: Google/Green Party/Richard Townshend Photography

A plan for 54 homes on the edge of Watton has been unanimously refused by councillors, amid concerns around flooding and landscape impacts. 

Although bordering the built-up area of Watton, the development would in fact have been located within the parish of Saham Toney - which according to Breckland Council would have damaged a “rural gap” between the two settlements. 

In a letter to the council, local Conservative MP George Freeman gave his objection to the plans, warning that “any coalescence of Saham Toney with Watton would be highly undesirable – irrevocably altering the very nature of life, as well as the aesthetic, of this community.” 

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman

Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk George Freeman - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

Mr Freeman added that he was “baffled” that the developer, Property 192 Ltd, had decided to pursue the plan, despite the site being prone to flooding. 

At a meeting of the council’s planning committee on Tuesday (April 12), a letter from Property 192’s agent was read out, which claimed that “the development would round off the edge of Watton”. 

They also said that the concerns over impacts on the landscape were “subjective”, and that they would happily provide evidence demonstrating the homes would be outside the area most at risk of surface water flooding.

But local Green councillor Timothy Birt highlighted the risks posed by flooding, saying: “We all know that flood events are increasing in regularity and severity.

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“When a plan, as this one does, includes a documented ‘escape route in case of flood’, how can the site possibly be acceptable? How can this be regarded as acceptable?

“Let’s just consider [that] the costs, if we were to accept this, wouldn’t only fall on the residents affected by any flood - although those costs would be bad enough - but there’s also costs for this council. 

“If the worst should happen, we would need to implement an emergency plan to support residents, which could include those unable to return home and there would then be clear-up costs afterwards.

“It makes no sense to create additional risks and problems like this.”

The plan would have seen the homes go up on land off Swaffham Road, with the access just north of Wayland Avenue.

Some 19 of the homes were planned as affordable and more than half of the site would have been set aside as green open space. 

Residents had between them sent in some 118 letters of objection.