Council approves new housing plan

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News from the Bury Free Press
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Councillors from Forest Heath District Council have made a u-turn after approving a planning application for 374 new homes in Red Lodge on Wednesday night.

At an extraordinary meeting of the development control committee, members cast six votes each for and against the plans when chairman Cllr Chris Barker made the casting vote in favour of the proposal by developer Crest Nicholson.

Reasons offered for refusal had been a potential overload to the sewerage system, lack of primary school places and inadequate vehicular access to the development site.

However, a risk assessment report revealed there was not substantial evidence to support these reasons.

The lack of a five-year housing supply in the district was said to be of ‘considerable importance’ in the decision.

It marks a dramatic reversal after councillors said they were minded to refuse the application at their last meeting.

Vice-chairman Cllr Andy Drummond said: “None of these objections can be defended by the council at appeal because there is no substance to them.”

Cllr Roger Dicker said: “I do not have a problem with the housing going up in Red Lodge, but it is still a building site and we are asking for people to put up with this for years to come. Red Lodge deserves a rest.”

Cllr David Bowman said: “The sewage problem is Anglian Water’s issue, it is not a planning issue. We should not get bogged down in those sort of things.

“People do need housing, and we do need the employment that goes with all that.”

Suffolk County Council projects the school will be over capacity by 84 pupils by September 2017, even without the new development.

Crest Nicholson has agreed to provide land to St Christopher’s to set up temporary classrooms while it is expanding.

Planning officer Gareth Durrant said: “If development is not allowed it increases the chance that the 84 extra pupils at the school would have to be bused elsewhere to go to school.”

Cllr Bowman said: “Provided Suffolk County Council get their act together and we do get the new school, we cannot stop this application going forward.”

Cllr Drummond said: “The schools will need temporary classrooms on their own site anyway. The development will allow the school to temporarily expand while a new site is found.”

Crest Nicholson has also agreed to limit the occupation of homes before September 1, 2017, to alleviate pressure on primary school places.

Concerns about the sewerage system centred around the fact a full sewerage report had not been provided by Anglian Water.

However, evidence submitted with the planning application showed the existing system would be able to cope.

In response to concerns about the vehicular access to the site via Larch Way, Mr Durrant said the local highway authority had agreed to resolve any issues caused by the development retrospectively.