Shock as plan for school and 110 homes is turned down
- Credit: Archant
Controversial plans to build a new school and more than 100 homes in north Norfolk blasted as 'detrimental' by an MP have been refused by councillors.
Gladman Development Ltd applied for outline planning permission to convert land of Beresford Road, in Holt, into 110 houses, plus land to build a new primary school, affordable homes, open spaces and recreation facilities, in May 2019.
North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) officers recommended the council agree to the Cheshire-based firm's scheme, despite receiving more than 67 letters of objection to the development, including over increased traffic and congestion at school pick up times, the loss of farmland and of views of the open countryside.
But at a meeting of the planning committee held on Thursday, February 6, North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker blasted the plans, claiming the offer of land for a school was "nothing more than an inducement" and that it would be "unfair to force" it on residents.
The Conservative politician and Holt councillor said: "The entire application is nothing more than an inducement by the developer to gift us land for this school.
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"I'm not prepared to make a bad planning decision that will cause detriment to the people who have to live with this school.
"We do live in a democracy. Our residents don't want this and I think it is really unfair to force this on them."
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While Geoff Lyon, major projects manager at the council, told the committee they were not granting permission for the school to be built, but that the promise of land and funding to go towards one was tied to the permission for the 110 homes.
"It's the offer of exchanging land to the county council as the education authority," he said.
"There's no official pot of money sat in a county council account saying 'Holt' on it.
"I've been advised once the need is established from development of houses, the funding will come in to deliver the school."
He also said officers saw no reason to turn the scheme down due to highways concerns and added: "Highways advice is that there is enough capacity to accommodate the development.
"Our recommendation is that you approve the development."
Representatives from the county council's Highways and education authorities also encouraged councillors to grant permission to the scheme, and said Holt had been identified as a growth town.
And John McKenzie, from Gladman Development Ltd, said the developer would provide a 36pc allowance of affordable housing, and had addressed concerns over the development's impact on the climate.
He said: "This is a sustainable site and a well-considered scheme that offers a significant benefit."
But Richard Carter, who lives near the site, said the county council had offered "subjective and vague" assurances that a school would be built on the land within ten years.
He said: "Listen to the simple clear messages sent by residents and the deafening silence on this from the county council".
Council leader Sarah Butikofer said she had asked the council to take the demographics of north Norfolk into account when planning future school provision.
And Nigel Pearce, Liberal Democrat district councillor for Roughton, added: "I have severe concerns about the traffic management and the potential for disaster, confusion and accidents.
"The thought of children going down that road scares the living daylights out me."
While the council's head of planning, Philip Rowson, said that despite the local plan not having been agreed, the application was "lawful, sound and logical", and urged the committee to approve it.
However, when chairman Pauline Grove-Jones moved the matter to a vote, no councillor proposed a motion in favour of the recommendation to approve.
A vote was agreed by default, and 11 councillors voted against the scheme, with two abstentions.
Nigel Lloyd, Liberal Democrat councillor for North Walsham, then proposed voting to refuse the application, on the grounds that the potential benefits of the plans did not outweigh the risk the school would not be delivered.
Ten councillors voted in favour of refusal, with three abstentions.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr McKenzie said Gladman would review the refusal and next steps.
"Clearly we're disappointed at the outcome," he added.
"I think the education authority will be as well."
But after the meeting, Mr Baker described the offer of the school as a "white elephant".
He said: "Not a single person was calling [the motion]. Not a single person voted for it."
The developer has six months to appeal the council's decision.