Council faces criticism after losing appeal on controversial Needham Market development

The site proposed for 37 new homes in Needham Market
The site proposed for 37 new homes in Needham Market

A town clerk says ‘the door has been left open for speculative developments’ after a controversial housing scheme rejected by the district council was overturned on appeal.

The plans, for 37 homes on a Special Landscape Area near Anderson Close in Needham Market, have sparked fierce opposition after they were put forward on Christmas Eve 2013. In August 2014 Mid Suffolk District Council voted to reject the plans for homes on the green field site.

However, on June 9 planning inspector Karen Baker overturned the decision, giving ‘substantial weight’ to the argument that the council is unable to demonstrate a five year land supply for housing and that the 37 homes would reduce this shortfall.

Kevin Hunter, Needham Market’s Town Clerk, says because the district council have not identified a five year land supply, unpopular and unsuitable housing projects are being forced through.

“The door had been left open for speculative developments,” he said.

He said the town council had also been unable to complete its Neighbourhood Plan, which could have halted the development, because it was waiting for key information from Mid Suffolk.

“Without it what can we do to protect the community from undesirable developments out of sync with the community’s wishes?” he said.

A resident, who lives close to the proposed site, said the district council were letting its village communities down.

He said: “Because of the inadequacies of Mid Suffolk the work of local communities is being totally undermined.

“We are very disappointed by the abysmally poor planning framework in the area.”

A spokesman for Mid Suffolk District Council said it had ‘robustly defended’ its decision to refuse the Anderson Close application.

He said: “The council does find itself in the position of many other local authorities across the country in not having an established five year housing land supply.

“The long term solution to this issue will partly be through the development of our new Joint Local Plan, work on which has already commenced.

“In the short term we will provide more pro-active encouragement of early applications for sites which appear to be viable and sustainable and which can be delivered early.

“The test then becomes one of the sustainability of each scheme weighed against any negative impacts and the requirement to meet housing need.”