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'Phew!': Relief for campaigners as developers fail in bid to overturn church planning call

PUBLISHED: 17:56 19 January 2019

Local residents who are furious about plans drawn up by developers to redevelop St Peter's Methodist Church in Park Lane and replace it with 20 flats + one house.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Local residents who are furious about plans drawn up by developers to redevelop St Peter's Methodist Church in Park Lane and replace it with 20 flats + one house. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Campaigners have breathed sighs of relief after a planning inspector decided councillors were correct to turn down a bid to turn a city church into 20 homes.

Lee Hooper (left) leading a protest ahead of a planning appeal hearing around St Peter's Methodist Church Picture: Neil DidsburyLee Hooper (left) leading a protest ahead of a planning appeal hearing around St Peter's Methodist Church Picture: Neil Didsbury

An application from the Interesting Building Company (IBC) to develop St Peter’s Methodist Church was turned down by Norwich City Council in July 2017, after the two parties failed to find common ground over affordable housing.

However, neighbours who campaigned against the development were left on tenterhooks when the homebuilders appealed the decision, with hearings taking place in August and October last year.

Now, the result of the hearing has been published, with inspector Mike Worden ruling in favour of the council, meaning its decision stands.

Lee Hooper, one of the key campaigners against the scheme, said: “Phew, what a great result.

“It is wonderful the inspector agreed with the decision and now everybody can focus on finding a good scheme for the site - now this horrible one is behind us.

“If a community use can’t be found, of course I accept it will have to be housing, but let’s now find a scheme that works for everyone and benefits the area.”

In an additional blow for IBC, the planning inspector has also ordered the Wymondham-based company to pay towards costs accumulated by the council for the second hearing.

This was decided after Mr Worden ruled that “unreasonable behaviour” from the company had resulted in unnecessary expense, relating to timings of evidence IBC had submitted, resulting in the second hearing taking place.

The application was initially submitted in November 2015, with the saga rolling on for more than three years.

Two revised schemes from IBC were also refused by the city council the day before the first day of the appeal hearing - and it remains to be seen whether these will also be appealed.

A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: “We welcome the decision and the award of costs is also welcome in the current climate.”

Per the inspector’s ruling, it will now be up to the council and IBC to agree the exact amount the developers will pay.

IBC has been contacted for comment.

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