Villagers hail victory in homes fight

Villagers last night hailed a “victory for democracy” after councillors threw out a planning application for the second time - despite being warned by their own officials they were making an unlawful decision.

Villagers last night hailed a “victory for democracy” after councillors threw out a planning application for the second time - despite being warned by their own officials they were making an unlawful decision.

The decision by South Norfolk Council's south west area planning committee to go against the advice of an independent solicitor and planning officers was welcomed by villagers at Long Stratton who are fighting the proposal for a 60-home estate on land at Lime Tree Avenue.

The planning application by Persimmon Homes (Anglia) was turned down originally by the committee in late February amid concerns about drainage and flooding.

But committee members were then asked to think again by a special meeting of the full council on March 20 after planning officials warned that the grounds for refusal were illegal.

Yesterday, after almost three hours of debate, the committee voted by a 6-2 majority to again reject the application - and potential problems with surface water and foul sewers were again listed as key concerns, together with increased highways dangers at the junction with the A140, and the potential that neighbouring properties would be overlooking by the new homes.

Long Stratton councillor Peter Smith, who will be standing down at the May elections, said: “It would be very easy for me to throw my hands up under pressure from officers and solicitors as I have only got a few more days to go. But what sort of legacy would I be leaving for residents if a few years down the line there was a serious accident at the junction?”

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Beverley Spratt added: “I have had experience of developments when the foul sewerage didn't work. Anglian Water has to take responsibility.”

Objectors spoke of long-standing flooding problems at the site, with the authority's own environmental service officers also voicing concerns that Anglian Water had failed to inform them what future remedial work was planned.

Parish council chairman, Andrew Landsell, said 20,000 vehicles pass through Long Stratton daily, and many are speeding when they pass the junction where the limit changes from 50mph to 30mph. “We know there are serious delays for residents trying to get out at peak times. With 500 additional cars coming out of the junction, we feel this will be an accident waiting to happen,” he said.

But Persimmon Homes' managing director Alan Hadman maintained that traffic calming measures and a 20mph zone that would make Lime Tree Avenue a safer place to live. “It is your local plan. However, it is perverse if you refuse an application that complies entirely with that local plan,” he said.

John Tomlinson, the council's head of planning services, said: “I don't believe you have material grounds for refusing the application.”

The council's monitoring officer will consider the decision, which could result in the scheme being referred again.

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