Councillors slam road assessments for West Norfolk housing plans

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A West Norfolk councillor has called for a vote of no confidence in county roads officials amid growing concerns over the way in which planning applications are assessed.

The demand was made as major new housing schemes for the villages of Methwold and Southery were approved today, despite councillors raising access concerns.

But planners warned that refusal of either scheme could not be justified without the support of Highways officers.

Outline plans for 44 homes on land south of Herbert Drive, Methwold, were approved by 11 votes to five at a meeting of West Norfolk Council’s planning committee in Lynn.

A separate plan for 24 properties on land at the corner of Upgate Street and Lynn Road, Southery was also approved.

In each case, Norfolk County Council Highways officers reported no objections, subject to conditions being implemented.

And, responding to a call for the Methwold scheme to be turned down because of inadequate access, committee chairman Vivienne Spikings said: “We haven’t got Highways backing that up. That’s our big trouble.”

But Snettisham councillor Avril Wright seized on that to call for a confidence vote in the work of the Highways department.

Mrs Spikings proposed to arrange a training session for members to look specifically at roads issues.

But, while she said that would help, Mrs Wright added: “I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of confidence in their decisions. I don’t feel Highways give us the attention that they should do.”

In the Southery case, concern focused on the junction with Feltwell Road, which is opposite the site.

Committee member Martin Storey, who represents the village on Norfolk County Council, pointed out that the road is heavily used by lorries going to and from the British Sugar plant at Wissington, as well as traffic from several other farms and businesses.

He said that, although measures to help reduce the impact of traffic on the area were being looked at, he regarded the proposed access as “dangerous” and unfair to residents.

He added: “This is a nightmare and here we are adding to it.

“I can’t tell you hard enough how disappointed I am with Highways.

“I just wonder if we would put up with it in our parishes. It’s a disgrace.”

Vice-chairman Mick Peake added: “It’s a dangerous junction and I don’t think it (the application) should be allowed.”

But the authority’s principal planner Stuart Ashworth said: “It would be very difficult to argue with Highways when there’s no technical reason for doing so.”

However, in a separate discussion, a decision on proposals for 10 new homes off School Road, Walpole Highway, was deferred because of transport concerns.

The meeting was told that Highways officers had lodged a holding objection to the proposals after planners’ report to the committee was completed.