Developers have been criticised after reducing the size of a proposed new housing estate meaning that they won’t have to provide any affordable homes.

Although the revised plan, which saw the size of the site cut to 1.21 acres from 1.59 acres, has been approved by Breckland Council it has been condemned by neighbours and the parish council.

The project for new homes in North Pickenham, near Swaffham, has been going back and forth between planners and developers for eight years.

Previous proposals that had tried to remove affordable homes from an earlier scheme were rejected by the authority.

A blueprint for the development – called Brecklands Green – was approved in 2018 and would have seen nine houses built, two of which could be sold or rented at below the market rate.  

But when the developer submitted an application to sell all the homes at full price in May 2022, they were rebuffed by Breckland.

Watton & Swaffham Times: Breckland CouncilBreckland Council (Image: Archant)

The latest plan for eight homes gets around this as the size of the site is 100 meters below the threshold required to provide affordable housing.

Ahead of the decision which saw the scheme approved, four neighbours and the parish council wrote to object. 

One neighbour said: “It appears that the area under consideration has shrunk to just under the area required by law for social housing to be included since the owner first applied for planning permission many years ago. How can this be explained? 

“On this basis alone, the application should be refused.” 

Setting out their approval, a report by Breckland planning officials described the lack of affordable housing as “unfortunate” but said nothing could be done. 

Because plans for nine homes on the site had already agreed, the officers said the principle of development has already been established and it must be approved. 

The agents, Paul Robinson Partnership, were approached for further comment. 

What’s been going on at Brecklands Green? 

Plans for Brecklands Green go back to 2015, when developers submitted a bid to build on the site of a former Christian fellowship centre in North Pickenham. 

But the plans were rejected by Breckland Council, who said the scheme was outside the boundary of the village. 

A second scheme, also for eight homes, was then submitted in 2017 and was once again rejected. 

However, following the second bid, the developers appealed the decision with the government’s Planning Inspectorate, who could overturn the refusal. 

In January 2018, inspectors decided against the council and the development was approved. 

The developer came back to Breckland in 2020, but a new plan on the same patch of land, proposing nine homes instead of eight, receiving permission in principle in 2021. 

Finally, in April last year, they asked to be let off the requirement to provide affordable housing which was turned down by the authority.