Inquiry rejects Downham Market homes plan

Conservationists were celebrating today after it emerged a government planning inspector halted plans to build 249 homes around a nature reserve in Downham Market.

Conservationists were celebrating today after it emerged a government planning inspector had halted plans to build 249 homes around a nature reserve in Downham Market.

Developer Country and Metropolitan Homes planned to build the houses and apartment blocks, some up to four storeys high, on land south of Railway Road.

But the new estate would have overlooked the town's Willows nature reserve - a haven for dog walkers and birdwatchers.

West Norfolk councillors refused the company's application last September, claiming it did not fit with the existing townscape and would have a detrimental impact on buildings in the town's conservation area.


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Developers disagreed with the decision but, following an inquiry last month, planning inspector Julia Gregory has now dismissed their appeal.

Kathleen Wiseman, of Downham Market and District Heritage Trust, welcomed the announcement but - with borough planners already agreed that the site is ripe for development - she warned any future plans must recognise the needs of the town's wildlife.

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“We're delighted the development cannot go ahead as planned,” she said.

“We were concerned that such an intensive development would enclose the Willows and isolate it from the river network and other wildlife, which would lead to its degradation as a wildlife area.

“We will be keeping an eye on future plans to develop because we don't feel the effects on the Willows were taken into account fully, and we need to protect that ecology.”

During the inquiry on May 20, the developers' barrister Rupert Warren rejected criticism that the buildings would be detrimental to views from the railway and the nature reserve and said they would create a “strong and identifiable quarter” in the town.

But the inspector's report, sent out to interested parties this week, says: “I was shown no precedent for four-storey dwellings in Downham Market. I consider that the heights and bulk of the buildings would be harmful to the character and appearance of the area.”

Vivienne Spikings, West Norfolk's cabinet member for development said: “The council is delighted by this decision which clearly vindicates the decision of the development control board to seek higher quality and more sympathetic development in Downham.

“The inspector has sent an important message about the need to ensure that new development is sympathetic to its surroundings and we will ensure that any subsequent scheme takes account of the points raised.”

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