Victory for campaigners as plans for nearly 200 homes in Watton rejected

Residents of Mallard Road in Watton are unhappy with the proposed 177 homes that being builts on the

Residents of Mallard Road in Watton are unhappy with the proposed 177 homes that being builts on the site - From from left, Jean Williams and Jo Jacklin with residents from the area. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Housing campaigners are celebrating a victory today after plans for 177 homes in their town were turned down.

Plans for the new development off Mallard Road, Watton were rejected over concerns about the site's proximity to a Breckland Special Protection Area (SPA) and its incursion into the stone curlew buffer zone.

The proposal from Bidwells, which had been recommended for approval, was rejected by seven votes to four at a meeting of Breckland Council's planning committee on Monday.

Around 20 members of the public turned out to watch the discussion, which included submissions from ward councillors Michael Wassell and Keith Gilbert, Watton Medical Practice manager Mary Osborne, and representatives from the RSPB and housing pressure group What Watton Wants.

Mr Gilbert labelled the application 'disgraceful'.


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Ms Osborne said the surgery in Watton already had 12,000 registered patients and was increasing by five to ten patients a week, without additional growth from new housing developments.

'The health service in Watton cannot support more developments,' she said.

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Speaking for What Watton Wants, Adrian Jacklin pointed out that the site had previously been designated as 'undeliverable'.

The group objected due to the 'already inadequate infrastructure in Watton town centre' and the design of the planned housing.

Watton town councillor Peter Bishop said an influx of planning applications was leaving residents feeling 'powerless'.

'In Watton we don't have one building site in the town, we have a large number,' he said. 'This is a great concern for the residents, but another issue for them is a total feeling of powerlessness.

'The feeling is that Watton is to become a forgotten town.'

While Natural England believed the development, 1.3km from the SPA boundary, would not cause an adverse ecological effect, the RSPB disagreed.

Speaking at the meeting John Sharpe, of the RSPB, also addressed the development's incursion into the 1,500m stone curlew buffer zone. He said there had been two nesting attempts by the rare bird in the area in the past five years.

Claire Bowes, Breckland district councillor for Watton, said: 'It seems we are eroding away and encroaching on our natural heritage.'

Beccy Rejzek, of Bidwells, said the development would contribute to the district's five year housing supply and the site was bordered on three sides by the Watton area, making it an 'obvious development site'.

'The impacts on ecology have been successfully considered and there have not been found to be any problems,' she added.

The application prompted a considerable outcry from the community, with more than 240 representations objecting to it submitted by local residents.

Breckland district councillor Frank Sharpe said the committee 'may use common sense and have regard to local views' when making a decision, as well as taking officers' advice.

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