Watton Town Council prepares to fight against planning application for 69 homes

'The fight starts here ladies and gentlemen.'

This was the defiant message from a town councillor about a controversial planning application to build 69 homes off Saham Road, Watton.

Hopkins Homes have put forward the proposal after their original application to develop 91 properties on the same piece of land, submitted last year, was rejected by a government inspector last month.

The application attracted widespread criticisim from residents, including fears about poor drainage, traffic, the design and layout of the affordable homes and the location of the site - which falls outside the town's settlement boundary. Breckland Council and Watton Town Council also opposed the scheme.

At a town council Planning and Forward Development Committee meeting last night (Tuesday), chairman Keith Gilbert said: 'The fight starts here.'

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Committee members voted unanimously against the planning application, which will go to Breckland Council for further discussion.

At the meeting, Mr Gilbert told some 32 concerned residents that Hopkins Homes have not discussed the amended application with Watton town councillors - a statement made by the housing developer in its design and access statement.

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He added that it 'beggars belief' the housing giant has put forward another proposal to build on an area outside of Watton's settlement boundary.

Ron Upton, from Blackhorse Close, Watton, who spoke on behalf of the concerned residents, said: 'Hopkins Homes say they have had a consultation with the residents, but they haven't. The only information they have had from the residents is what we have sent to Breckland Council.

'We believe the proposed site is outside the Breckland Local Development Framework (LDF) so what are we doing here now? Are there loopholes the developers can exploit?'

The LDF is series of strategies and documents used by Breckland Council to determine future planning developments in the area up to 2026.

He added that Watton's infrastructure would not be able to cope with the proposed development, which would not be 'sustainable'.

'There are few employment opportunities for the young people of Watton, our medical services are stretched and if the houses are built who is going to buy them?' said Mr Upton.

If built, the proposed development will include 27 affordable homes, an area of open public space for new and existing residents, a new vehicular access and pedestrian links.

Mr Upton added the area where the buildings will be established is 'semi rural', and told the residents: 'Let's keep Watton a market town.'

Watton town councillor Roy Radling said the only difference in the amended plan was a reduction in the amount of houses.

A report supporting the latest application said: 'Hopkins Homes Ltd has established an enviable reputation for developing well designed, high-quality award-winning residential development that harmonises and adds interest to its local context.'

Breckland Council is expected to make a decision on the application by early December.

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