Hall plans get the green light

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A LONG-running saga over the fate of an historic hall has finally been settled, after plans were given the green light.

The development of Lakenheath Hall will go ahead after Forest Heath District Council decided to approve a retrospective planning application by Lakenheath Hall Estates.

At a meeting on Wednesday, the council’s planning committee heard from Don Proctor, from RPS planning consultants, that the work would restore the site to ‘its former glory’.

However, Cllr David Gathercole, Forest Heath councillor and Lakenheath Parish Council chairman, was against approval, citing Forest Heath’s own assertion that the site was of ‘significant architectural and historic interest’.

He said: “To be blunt, the planning history for this application and Lakenheath Hall are a mess. It’s a mess that everyone appears to want to go away at any cost.

“The magnificent grounds and trees have been butchered, the development that has taken place has been shoddy and badly handled.

“Now everyone just wants to clear away the mess and forget about it all. Everyone except the parish and people who live there.”

Mr Proctor emphasised landscaping plans for the site as being of major benefit to Lakenheath, with plans for 95 new trees, almost three kilometres of hedging and nearly 6,000 plants.

A number of councillors felt the plans were the best that the site the site could hope for, with Cllr Tony Wheble suggesting that it would cost almost £2 million for a new owner to come in and restore it.

Cllr Ben Williams, who attended a site visit on Monday, said the state of the site made approval essential.

“I was bitterly disappointed and saddened by the condition of the grounds and it’s a travesty for a beautiful building to be left like that,” he said.

Cllr Bill Bishop said: “This is a good development. The village needs something to give it a boost and I think this is the scheme to do that.”

Work to convert the 17th century hall into three homes, with four partially built dwellings on the site, can now begin.

The decision ends a history of planning decisions on the site.

Permission was originally granted in 2005, with work stopping after fears that planning conditions were being breached.

Approval was again granted last year, but an application for judicial review brought it back before the committee.