Councillor's apology after 'idiots' gaffe in meeting over flats bid

A screenshot from the virtual Norwich City Council meeting.

A screenshot from the virtual Norwich City Council meeting on Thursday. - Credit: Zoom

A divisive bid to build eight flats on the site of a former scout hut has been refused by councillors in a meeting which saw one exasperated member call her colleagues “idiots”.

Norwich City Council’s planning committee met virtually on Thursday to consider the plans for eight two-bed flats in a three-storey building on the site of the now-demolished Vikings Venture Scout Hut on Dereham Road in Norwich.

Opinion on how to proceed was split, and as a vote was taken councillor Judith Lubbock put her head in her hands and, not realising her microphone was on, said “oh dear… Idiots”.

After the meeting, she said she was “exasperated”, but said she wholeheartedly apologised and had written to committee chairman Keith Driver to that effect.

City councillor Judith Lubbock in Eaton Park. Pic: Sonya Duncan.

City councillor Judith Lubbock in Eaton Park. Pic: Sonya Duncan. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The site has a lengthy planning history, with, most recently, an application refused by the city council in 2014. It was later allowed on appeal in 2016 but the permission has since expired.

Reasons for refusal in 2014 centred on the land not being suitable for development and traffic concerns on nearby cul-de-sac Dell Crescent.

Council papers say the area is “known to have experienced subsidence”, with chalk quarrying and a limekiln believed to have existed there.

A hole in Dell Crescent off Dereham Road, Norwich from 1990. Picture: Archant Library

A hole in Dell Crescent off Dereham Road, Norwich from 1990. Picture: Archant Library

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But they say a 2008 report which advised that development could take place without harming the area was still relevant.

David Parkin, planning officer, said if the committee wanted to knock back the bid, it would have to demonstrate a “change in circumstances” in issues covered in the appeal decision, including traffic and ground conditions.

Mike Sands, committee member, said: “The site is demonstrably unstable, demonstrably unsuited to a heavy footprint - it’s ideal for a wooden scout hut, on wooden piles, treading lightly on the land.”

He suggested the applicant sell the land to the council for £1 - an idea backed by committee member Jane Sarmezey.

The former scout hut site on Dereham Road in Norwich.

The former scout hut site on Dereham Road in Norwich. - Credit: Google Maps

Councillor Sandra Bogelein said she did not want to approve the application but said the situation “gives us very little wriggle room”.

And Paul Neale said the council would have to “abide by legal reasons”.

A motion was later put forward to refuse the application on the grounds of parking issues, which was approved with seven votes for, two abstentions, from Ms Bogelein and Mr Neale, and one against, Mrs Lubbock.
 

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