Estate is backing review bid

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THETFORD Town Council could have a partner if it decides to move for a legal review of major plans for the town.

At a council meeting on Tuesday night, Chris Kennard, from the Shadwell Estate, said his employers shared the town council’s fears over the soundness of Breckland Council’s Thetford Area Action Plan (TAAP).

“It makes sense from our perspective that if it’s going to be challenged, it may as well be challenged together,” he said.

The estate’s concerns arise from development restrictions in the Special Protection Area (SPA) – an area designated to protect the stone curlew.

A 1,500m buffer zone surrounds the SPA where no development is allowed.

The zone has blocked a number of housing and business developments since it was introduced in 2008.

The Shadwell Estate is almost entirely surrounded by the buffer zone, making development impossible and affecting business, according to Mr Kennard.

Speaking before the meeting, he said the science used in the Footprint Ecology Report that informed the SPA was ‘flawed’.

“We’ve always challenged Breckland’s initial report since the core strategy stage four years ago,” he said.

“There were no stone curlews on the estate a few years ago and now they are back. We are proud of what we have done for them here and think we know what makes it tick.”

He added that the estate had commissioned its own report into the science used in the TAAP.

Councillors reacted positively to Mr Kennard’s proposal.

However, Cllr Terry Jermy said his concerns with the TAAP lay with the lack of plans to regenerate the town centre and existing housing estates, rather than the buffer zone.

“We have got to get the growth of Thetford right or it will damage the town forever,” he said.

Cllr John Harding warned members a review could ‘bankrupt’ the council if it went wrong.

The town council agreed to look into the possibility of a judicial review into the TAAP at a meeting on June 12. Legal advice is now being sought on the matter.

Estimates for the cost of a strategic review range from £30,000 to more than £100,000.