Yaxham sets out case for new policy to protect its green surroundings from development

Chairman of Yaxham Parish Council, Peter Lowings, front left, with Maggie Oechsle, chairman, and Ian

Chairman of Yaxham Parish Council, Peter Lowings, front left, with Maggie Oechsle, chairman, and Ian Martin, vice chairman of the Yaxham Neighbourhood Plan Working Group, at the public meeting to propose an area of gap land to protect the open country between Yaxham and Dereham, and Yaxham and Clint Green. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

A mid Norfolk village is seeking to create greater protection for the 'oasis of green' which surrounds it, a public hearing has heard today.

The map of Yaxham showing the proposed gap (green area) designed to prevent erosion of the open coun

The map of Yaxham showing the proposed gap (green area) designed to prevent erosion of the open country between Yaxham and Dereham. Picture: COURTESY of Yaxham Neighbourhood Plan Working Group - Credit: SUPPLIED

Yaxham's Neighbourhood Plan working group presented its case to an independent examiner for three stategic gaps, to protect open green spaces in and around the village from development.

The team said through consultation with the village it was clear the majority wanted to ensure it retains its own separate identity by defining gaps between itself and Dereham to the north and Mattishall to the east, while also retaining a distinct gap between its two parish settlements of Yaxham and Clint Green.

The strategic gap policy is seen as an flagship element of its Neighbourhood Plan which is the first in Breckland to be put forward for independent examination and could set a precedent for other groups working on their documentation.

Breckland Council's representatives argued that there were already enough policies in place to protect the land in question which, put together, covered over 36 percent of the parish.

A map of Yaxham showing the areas owned by Yaxham Waters and Lanpro who are objecting to the proposa

A map of Yaxham showing the areas owned by Yaxham Waters and Lanpro who are objecting to the proposal of an area of gap land to protect the open country between Yaxham and Dereham, and Yaxham and Clint Green. Picture: COURTESY of Yaxham Neighbourhood Plan Working Group - Credit: SUPPLIED


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But NP4Yaxham vice-chairman Ian Martin said the strategic gap policy would 'add value' to existing policies, particularly as the council's recent announcement of a five year housing land supply was under challenge and 'may or may not stay in place'. There were also concerns about the rate of Dereham's proposed housing growth to the south of the town and industrial growth to the east and the visual impact it would have on Yaxham.

Examiner Richard High asked for justification for the policy saying that key elements needed to show that the distance between settlements was unusually close, there was significant development pressure that could override existing policies that protect the countryside and that there were unique qualities that needed protection.

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The hearing heard that developer Lanpro had already bought a large parcel of land covering both sides of the Norwich Road between Yaxham and Clint Green and Glavenhill Strategic Land had submitted a planning application for a development of 25 houses on the northern field.

Lanpro representative Jane Crighton said the two companies, who were separate but had the same directors, opposed any strategic gap in this location.

Yaxham parish council chairman Peter Lowings said there were three linked footpaths in this location which were well used and should be protected.

Jemma March, principle policy planner for Capita at Breckland Council, asked whether the benefits of future development along Norwich Road had been considered and questioned whether enough evidence had been gained in consultation to show that the majority of the community wanted a specific gap in that location.

Concern was also raised that land not included in the strategic gaps, particularly on the edge of the settlement boundary, would then be seen as 'less special' and would be more likely to be promoted for development in the future.

Ian Martin said in all consultations over the past 12 months the community response had been overwhelmingly positive in supporting the policy, with just two objections. It was also endorsed unanimously by the parish council.

Maggie Oechsle, chairman of NP4Yaxham, said the biggest issue for their community that emerged from consultation was how much value its residents placed on their green surroundings.

'The open landscape is very precious to people who live here,' she said. 'Organic development should continue as it always has but without compromising the open undeveloped views and landscape. The community wants Yaxham to remain an oasis of green for the next generation.'

Examiner Mr High said he would look at all the evidence and decide whether any modifications are needed to the policy before it is submitted for referendum.

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