Inquiry gets underway into controversial plans for houses in Watton

Members of the What Watton Wants pressure group before the planning inquiry into a bid to build 177

Members of the What Watton Wants pressure group before the planning inquiry into a bid to build 177 homes in Watton. Picture: Rebecca Murphy - Credit: Archant

Residents outlined their opposition to a controversial bid to build 177 homes in Norfolk town - as developers said it would bring significant benefits to the area.

Tesni Properties' bid to build the houses and flats on land south of Mallard Road was rejected by a Breckland Council's planning committee in April 2016, on the grounds of the site's proximity to a Breckland Special Protection Area (SPA) and its incursion into a stone curlew buffer site.

Tesni launched an appeal and the inquiry, held at Watton Sports Centre, began on Tuesday, June 13.

John Barrett, representing the developer, said it would create 180 full-time jobs over a five-year construction period.

He added that the development would bring 'significant benefits' and would be an 'inclusive community', with between 32 to 40pc of the housing being affordable.

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But town and district councillor Keith Gilbert said the application was 'disgraceful' and the design was a 'disgrace to Watton'.

He said it would not suit being built near bungalows.

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He added: 'There are other areas, especially at the other end of the town, where this sort of development would be appropriate.'

Representing the district council, William Upton said the loss of the green field site would have an impact.

He said: 'It is clearly a locally valued area and is well used by people. It has great local value.'

Mr Upton also said the council was concerned about the SPA site and the stone curlews.

More than 50 people attended the morning session and residents raised their issues regarding the development which included construction traffic concerns, inadequate infrastructure and flooding issues.

The inquiry will continue this week and is expected to continue on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

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