Villagers voice anger at plans
An enraged community is insisting a controversial planning application in West Row is set aside until the future use of RAF Mildenhall is known.
Proposals for up to 138 houses off Beeches Road have caused outrage among local residents. An action group formed to stop them has already held two well-attended gatherings.
More than 90 people went to a meeting in West Row Village Hall on Saturday, where ward councillors James Waters and David Bowman took questions about the application from developers Pigeon and agents Evolution Town Planning LLP.
Concerns raised by frustrated residents included the village’s inadequate infrastructure, the poor condition of local roads and their inability to cope with extra traffic, and a lack of school places.
The West Row Action Group said its main concern was the unknown impact of the closure of RAF Mildenhall, saying it was ‘like the closure of a pit in a pit village’.
Founding member John Smith said: “The council keep talking about how we will grow as a community, but we want a strategic plan for the village which considers the effect of the base closure.”
The action group, which has around 120 members, is contacting other groups in Forest Heath who have been subject to similar applications and is seeking legal aid to help fight the developement.
Mr Smith said: “Our community is under threat. This is not for the village, but because Forest Heath does not have a local housing plan the developers have an open door.
“They identify a potential site, and we and other villages cannot defend ourselves.”
Cllr Waters said he is ‘not comfortable’ with the current number of houses in the plans.
He said ‘more sustainable sites’ needed to be considered, in line with residents’ concern about the chosen location.
“We do need growth in the village, but we have to have a gradual progression,” he said.
“I feel there is a solution, we and the action group are not a million miles apart and I think we have broken down some barriers. I want to work for the village on this.
“Understanding the impact of the base closure is an important factor, which is why I have been encouraging the developers and land owners to put in a smaller scheme and phase it over a period of time.
“If the action group can work with them to achieve a beneficial scheme for the village, that can only be good.”
Simon Butler-Finbow, planning director at Pigeon, said: “We are arranging to hold a public exhibition at the beginning of next month where we will be presenting amended plans for consideration by the community.”
Details of the exhibition will be publicised shortly.