Fresh twist in seven-year battle for village homes

Brecklands Green in North Pickenham has been the site of several planning applications over the last seven years. 

Brecklands Green in North Pickenham has been the site of several planning applications over the last seven years - Credit: Google

The latest twist in a seven-year struggle over plans for new homes in a Norfolk village has sparked concerns from local councillors.

A request to remove affordable housing from a planned development in North Pickenham, near Swaffham, is just the most recent episode in a debate over the land stretching back years. 

Plans lodged in 2015 to build eight homes on a section of land at the village’s Brecklands Green were twice rejected by Breckland Council, until a successful appeal with the Planning Inspectorate saw the scheme gain permission in principle. 

The finer details were then agreed by Breckland in 2020, but a new plan on the same patch of land, proposing nine homes instead of eight, received permission in principle in 2021.

Plans for the scale, landscaping, layout and appearance of the nine homes are now awaiting final sign-off from Breckland, but a separate request to remove the requirement for any of the homes to be classed as ‘affordable’ has also now been lodged. 

In the application to remove the affordable homes, the applicant’s agent has provided a financial assessment, which claims that it would be unviable to make two of the homes affordable - as had been agreed. 

But Tom Ryan, chairman of North Pickenham Parish Council, said affordable homes were needed to keep younger people in villages like his. 

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He said: “The one thing this country is short of is social housing, and the way that prices are going, the young people in Norfolk won’t be able to afford to buy any houses. They just don’t earn the money for it."

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Conservative district and county councillor Fabian Eagle - Credit: Swaffham Town Council

He was joined in his concern by local district and county councillor Fabian Eagle, who said: “I personally think regardless of whether it’s social housing or anything else, there are more houses on that site than is perhaps necessary.”

He added that the applicant should not have applied for planning permission in the first place if it was not going to be viable to include affordable homes.

The applicant’s agents say the homes will have a “spacious” layout, with a “modest and traditional design aesthetic… blending well with the existing surrounding dwellings”.

The agents, Paul Robinson Partnership, were approached for further comment. 

The council will issue a decision on the scheme’s finer details by June 3 and a decision on whether to allow the affordable housing to be removed by June 14.