Thetford growth plan facing new challenge

A second challenge to Thetford's blueprint for growth could be mounted amid growing discomfort at plans to regenerate the town.

Director of the Shadwell Estate, Chris Kennard, said lawyers had been instructed to look into the Thetford Area Action Plan (TAAP), specifically on the issue of the stone curlew.

Officials had maintained growth was limited to the north because of a 1,500 metre buffer zone around a special protection area (SPA) to the south of the town, designed to protect the ground-nesting birds.

The move comes as Thetford Town Council agreed to explore the costs of its own legal challenge.

Mr Kennard said he would be happy to discuss his findings with the town council, and possibly to join forces.

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'In essence we still continue to believe the action plan is wrong for Thetford,' he said. 'Our legal advice is there are very strong grounds, principally on the stone curlew, and there are other points where we think it's vulnerable. We're not saying we should build in the SPA, although I think it should possibly be reviewed to see if it's still the correct zoning, but we're saying the buffer zone shouldn't exist because the SPA already includes a buffer.

'We think the work should be peer-reviewed and stand up to scientific scrutiny.'

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The TAAP, which centres on building 5,000 homes to the north of the town and relocating the bus station while regenerating its current Bridge Street location, was subject to a two-day public inquiry in March and found to be sound by an independent planning inspector earlier this month.

A Breckland Council spokesman said people could mount a legal challenge for up to six weeks after adoption of the plans.

He added: 'The Shadwell Estate has previously made representations on the TAAP at the Examination in Public to present their case and, after having considered the evidence from all parties, the inspector found the document to be sound.'

Estimates for the cost of a legal review have ranged from �40,000 to more than �100,000.

The TAAP is due to be recommended for adoption at a meeting of Breckland Council on Thursday.

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