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Planning inspector rules Woolpit homes can go ahead following appeal

A council is under fire after planning permission was granted for 49 homes in Woolpit following a successful appeal.

The site off Green Road, Woolpit, where 49 homes have been approved
The site off Green Road, Woolpit, where 49 homes have been approved

The planning inspectorate issued its decision on the Green Road application on Friday, following Landex Limited’s appeal against Mid Suffolk District Council’s decision last year.

The 49 homes, including 17 affordable properties and new access, can now be built, subject to conditions.

John Guyler, Woolpit Parish Council chairman, said: “We are very disappointed with the result, which will add extra traffic and congestion to the centre of what is a lovely medieval village.”

Among the factors considered was Mid Suffolk’s deliverable housing land supply, with planning inspector Harold Stephens concluding information supplied by the council skewed the data by including sites beyond a March 31 cut-off date, thus ‘overinflating the supply without a corresponding adjustment of need’.

He said adjusting the figures using Government methodology left the council with a housing land supply of 3.4 years – lower than the five-year requirement – and concluded it was ‘highly likely’ the council’s land supply was actually less. In July, Mid Suffolk District Council said it had a 6.5-year supply.

Mr Guyler added: “I regard the planning inspector’s comments regarding Mid Suffolk’s land supply situation as withering. This decision could open the floodgates for applications and appeals for Woolpit and other villages.

“The problems all relate to the planning department at Mid Suffolk and its inability to produce an up-to-date local plan and the lack of five-year housing land supply. Woolpit and quite a few other villages are being overwhelmed with development and planning applications as a result.”

Rachel Eburne, Green Party leader of the opposition on the council, said: “In 2014 and many times since, the Green group argued more should be done to ensure a five-year housing land supply and once again Conservative leadership has failed our local communities.”

Cllr Glen Horn, Mid Suffolk cabinet member for planning, said the council was disappointed by the ruling and that the inspector's comments on land supply had an impact on its work across the district.

“The fact is that the updated national planning policy framework (NPPF), set in Whitehall and published since we demonstrated a sufficient land supply, introduced a new method for calculating housing need and for defining deliverable sites, both key factors in demonstrating a land supply.

"While we felt our officers presented appropriate evidence on both these factors, the inspector found against us. As a result we will be working hard over the coming weeks, both within the council and with developers, to collect additional evidence to support our work and our committee’s decisions in future.

“I do want to reassure communities that the NPPF continues to promote sustainable growth, not unrestricted development. We are working to bring forward a new joint local plan for growth in our district, which will deliver the right homes in the right places, which everyone will have the chance to comment on later this year," he said.

The planning inspector also considered concerns over increased traffic, highway and pedestrian safety and the heritage impact on Woolpit Conservation Area, with the inspector finding the public benefits of the scheme would outweigh ‘the less than substantial harm to the significance of a designated heritage asset’.

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