Plea for planning sense in Methwold Hythe

A six-acre field will be transformed in a children's nature trail and wetland area, despite a costly planning condition which has prompted a call for 'common sense' to prevail in future.

Phil Ashman first mooted the Methwold Hythe project two years as a not-for-profit scheme to educate youngsters on nature and wildlife.

After a long planning process he and his wife, Linda Ashman, received permission in June this year, but a condition stipulated the couple must have an archaeologist on site while the dig was going on, at some cost to the pair.

They have now paid �690 to meet the condition, but Mr Ashman has called for a closer look at who foots the bill in future when a community project is involved.

'This is totally crazy,' he said. 'Why should I have to pay for him to come and stand there when there's been ploughing on the land for 150 years?

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'Methwold Hythe was also under water for hundreds of years so I'm now wondering why I need this. The solution is common sense. 'If an archaeologist wants to come then let them pay for it, or the government. If I was going to make half a million pounds from it I would understand why I have to pay for it but I'm just a normal, ordinary bloke trying to do something for the community. I'm not against the archaeology but why should I have to pay for it?'

While planning permission was granted by the Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk, the condition was recommended by Norfolk County Council.

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A letter by planning archeologist at Norfolk County Council, James Albone, said: 'The proposed development site lies in an area where previous archaeological fieldwork has identified concentrations of Bronze Age flint artefacts and burnt flints indicative of prehistoric occupation sites.

'Consequently, there is potential that heritage assets with archaeological interest (artefacts and buried archaeological remains) may be present at the site and that their significance may be affected by the proposed development.'

The project, on a piece of land off Severalls Road at Methwold Hythe, which will be free for children to use, is due to be completed by summer next year and will include two ponds, two splash areas, wild flowers, and a nature trail. Work began yesterday, with an archeologist on site.

Mr Ashman, 59, of Whiteplot Road, Methwold Hythe, who has five children, and 15 grandchildren, said: 'It all started with kids coming home from school and saying 'so and so has moved down form London and they don't know where pork or beef comes from, they think it comes from Tesco'.

'We thought they should be better educated and know where things come from. Kids now are too busy pushing buttons on computers rather than learning about nature. We've got a piece of land down here and we thought it would make a good nature trail for the kids.'

County Archaeologist and Historic Environment manager for Norfolk County Council, David Gurney, said: 'Our guidance is purely based on the archaeology of the area that the planning application relates to.

'It is for the respective council with planning responsibility for that area to decide whether they want to include planning conditions off the back of our guidance.

'This area is rich in archaeological finds and sites, right from prehistoric times onwards and as such we have advised the Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk that we feel there should be a watching brief put in place during the digging of ponds.

'In providing advice, we follow government guidance, which says that when development could affect archaeological remains, appropriate investigations should take place and should be funded by the developer.'

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