Setback in battle to save hall

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A DESPERATE campaign to save an historic hall from redevelopment hangs in the balance after a decision was delayed.

Lakenheath Parish Council’s repeated attempts to block work on Lakenheath Hall – including pleas to make it a listed building – have fallen on deaf ears.

But at a meeting of Forest Heath District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday night, councillors were forced to defer an outright decision on retrospective planning permission as a presentation on the site lacked detail.

Cllr David Gathercole, Forest Heath district councillor and Lakenheath Parish Council chairman, said work that had been carried out was ‘unauthorised’ and that more than 100 trees have been removed illegally.

“It is our view that this development has the potential to significantly impact on the heritage conservation area around Lakenheath,” he said.

Planning permission was originally granted to the project in 2005. But work was stopped after fears were raised that planning conditions were breached.

Permission was granted again in 2010 last year, but an application for judicial review by Lakenheath Parish Council brought it back before the committee on Wednesday.

The work on the site was defended by Jonathan Dixon from RPS planning consultants.

He said: “We believe that the current proposal is an improvement to that granted in 2005.”

The committee voted unanimously to defer the decision after concerns were raised about the details of the plans by Cllr Warwick Hirst.

He said the committee would require images that showed Lakenheath Hall before any work had been carried out at the site.

The parish council has also tried to stop work on the hall by applying to English Heritage for it to be given listed status.

But after a visit from an officer, the Secretary of State for culture, media and sport rejected the application.

An appeal against that decision was launched on June 7, with new evidence presented to English Heritage.

That plea was again rebuffed, with Andy Doidge, listing review officer, saying the new evidence provided was not sufficient for an appeal.

Lakenheath Hall Estates Ltd want to convert the 17th century hall into three homes, with a further four partially built dwellings included in the application.

A number of enforcement notices were served against the development last December, including the replacement of a frontage wall on Station Road and changes to four partially built dwellings.

These changes must be carried out September 25 in the case of the wall, and December 25 in the case of the four dwellings.