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Councillors set to make decision on Watton homes plan

PUBLISHED: 12:00 23 August 2010 | UPDATED: 10:57 16 September 2010

A controversial planned housing development on the northern edge of Watton will be recommended for refusal when councillors discuss it next week.

A controversial planned housing development on the northern edge of Watton will be recommended for refusal when councillors discuss it next week.

Chris Hill

A controversial planned housing development on the northern edge of Watton will be recommended for refusal when councillors discuss it next week.

Hopkins Homes wants to build 91 homes on three patches of grassland off Saham Road, ranging from single-bed flats to four-bed houses.

A controversial planned housing development on the northern edge of Watton will be recommended for refusal when councillors discuss it next week.

Hopkins Homes wants to build 91 homes on three patches of grassland off Saham Road, ranging from single-bed flats to four-bed houses.

The 3.2-hectare site falls outside the defined settlement boundary for Watton, and was assessed as unsuitable for development during Breckland Council's Local Development Framework (LDF) consultations.

But earlier this month, councillors were told greenfield sites had to be considered for housing if developers could prove they were “available, suitable and achievable” - because the district could not meet its five-year land supply targets until preferred LDF sites were formally adopted.

It sparked fears of a “developer's gold rush” if decision-makers were bound by policy to accept housing plans on previously protected sites.

But planning officers have advised that the Hopkins scheme should be rejected as it was “contrary to local and national planning policies that seek to restrict new housing development outside development boundaries”.

Other reasons for the recommendation include flood risk concerns and doubts raised by Anglian Water over whether the sewerage system could cope with the extra houses.

A report by principal planning officer Nick Moys says: “Despite a number of positive aspects, concerns about drainage infrastructure raise fundamental questions about the suitability of the site for development at the present time.

“The shortcomings of the proposed housing mix and assessment of flood risk reinforce this conclusion, though it is acknowledged that these matters could be addressed respectively by changes to the housing mix and the submission of additional information/revised drainage proposals.”

The application has generated 28 letters of objection and a petition signed by more than 30 opponents.

Watton Town Council also asked for the plans to be refused because the site was not allocated for development and could overburden local infrastructure, causing traffic and flooding problems.

The proposals include the construction of a new access road and the provision of a public open space. Most of the 91 dwellings would be two-storey buildings, and 36 would be provided as affordable housing.

Mr Moys' report says the scheme was generally well-conceived and its visual impact would be “relatively self-contained”.

Breckland's development control committee will discuss the application on September 1.

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