A ministerial halt on planning permission for 375 homes and a school in Lakenheath has been removed.
Plans for up to 375 homes and a primary school at Station Road North, up to 81 homes at Rabbithill Covert, 67 in Briscoe Way and up to 140 on land west of Eriswell Road, were all approved by Forest Heath District Council’s Development Control Committee in spite of strong local objections.
But all four sites were referred to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government by an unknown third party. That meant that planning permission was put on hold via an Article 31 Direction while the Secretary of State decided whether to call in the decisions.
The Secretary of State Sajid Javid has now decided not to call these in and has withdrawn the Article 31 Directions.
In a letter giving notice of this decision, the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.
“In deciding whether to call in these applications, the Secretary of State has considered his policy on calling in planning applications.
“This policy gives examples of the types of issues which may lead him to conclude, in his opinion that the application should be called in.
“The Secretary of State has decided, having had regard to this policy, not to call in these applications. He is content that they should be determined by the local planning authority.
“The Article 31 Directions pursuant to the Secretary of State’s letter issued in relation to these applications are hereby withdrawn.”
It is understood the MoD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation asked for Mr Javid to intervene because of concerns about the impact of aircraft noise.
Hermione Brown, chairwoman of Lakenheath Parish Council Planning subcommittee said: “The Parish Council are not against phased development for our village with the appropriate infrastructure.
“We feel we now have no choice but to defend our community against this massive over-development, increasing dramatically the size of our village with very little improvement in its infrastructure. We are dismayed that the MOD have withdrawn strong objections without giving us any good reasons.
“The people of Lakenheath are against the huge growth having given their parish council a mandate in a popular vote to challenge the developments through the legal process.
“There are constant references being made to a school being needed so that local children will be able to attend school in the village. I have checked with a school governor and can confirm that everyone who applied for a place this year got a place. No new houses, no new school needed.
“The facts are we can see no precedent in modern times for the siting of a primary school directly under the flight path of fighter jet aircraft.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “The MOD initially objected to these plans as we were concerned about the impact of aircraft noise on the people who would live in the new houses.
“We have since worked very closely with noise and planning experts and Forest Heath District Council to reach an agreement on planning conditions which means the developers are obliged to provide both details on how they will insulate houses and proof that maximum appropriate noise levels have been met.
“We are therefore happy for these developments to go ahead.”