Use up derelict land first - plea

Derelict industrial sites in Waveney should be redeveloped before greenfield land is swallowed up by new housing developments, campaigners warned last night.

Derelict industrial sites in Waveney should be redeveloped before greenfield land is swallowed up by new housing developments, campaigners warned last night.

In the run-up to a crunch planning meeting tomorrow, concerns are growing over plans to build 800 homes on nearly 70 acres of largely greenfield land on the outskirts of Lowestoft.

Members of Waveney District Council's development control committee are being recommended to approve an application to develop the Woods Meadow site at Oulton, despite calls for derelict brownfield sites to be given preference.

The 1st East Urban Regeneration Company (URC) has opposed the Oulton proposals, insisting they could hamper its plans to build about 1,500 homes on derelict sites across Lowestoft.

Its objections have been backed by the Suffolk Preservation Society, whose chairman Mike Coleman told of his fears about the erosion of Waveney's countryside.

Mr Coleman said: “I think they will make the URC project so much more difficult if the market for homes is saturated. It would seem prudent to make use of brownfield sites.

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“The real issue is the creeping erosion of the countryside and the nibbling here and there off greenfield sites. We will get to the stage where Lowestoft joins up with Beccles. The two towns are creeping closer together and suddenly what were nice greenfield sites are lost forever.”

Last week, prime minister Gordon Brown revealed plans to build three million new homes by 2020 - some 250,000 more than the Government's existing target. Before the announcement, there was a requirement for an average of 335 new homes to be built every year in Waveney until 2021.

Mr Brown said the new homes should be built principally on brownfield sites, but planning officers at Waveney council have previously insisted there is not enough to this type of land to meet its needs.

Graham Elliott, Waveney's only Green councillor, said: “I'm against all greenfield developments, particularly on a large scale.

“There are quite a large number of brownfield sites around and they need to be redeveloped. It is part of regeneration and a lot of sites are eyesores that need to be brought back into use.”

The Oulton plans, submitted by the Woods Meadow Consortium, also show proposals for a country park, primary school, shopping centre, community hall and play areas.

The application for outline permission was deferred in November last year when councillors asked for more details about the potential impact on the area's infrastructure, but planning officers believe their questions have now been answered satisfactorily.

However, Philip Watkins, chief executive of the 1st East URC, reiterated his opposition to the plans, saying he felt the granting of permission was too easy a solution to meeting Waveney's housing targets.

He added: “We are very keen that brownfield land is regenerated before greenfield sites.”

Waveney District Council did not wish to comment before tomorrow's planning meeting at Lowestoft Town Hall, which starts at 6pm.

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