Plans for 18 new holiday caravans at a tourism complex have been refused due to a policy change.

The application, submitted by Stonham Barns, was initially considered and deferred by members of Mid Suffolk’s planning committee in January 2021.

On Wednesday, January 17, following concerns the development would have a detrimental impact on the landscape, the application was once again considered with an independent landscape risk assessment.

However, despite the report’s conclusion that the development would not be unacceptably intrusive, councillors unanimously refused it.

Two reasons were given, the first being that the application did not demonstrate an overriding business need, a new requirement in the council’s Joint Local Plan (JLP) approved in November of last year for tourism-related developments in the countryside.

Phil Cobbold, the applicant’s agent, said the council was failing to proactively support new developments by not including policies from its JLP in the application’s report which endorse tourism development.

Mr Cobbold added: “Having declared a climate emergency, surely the council should be encouraging people from other parts of the country to visit Mid Suffolk rather than fly abroad for their holidays.”

Councillors’ second reason for refusal was due to the application not providing enough information to assess the caravans’ flood risk impacts, something supported by Suffolk County Council’s floods team.

However, Mr Cobbold maintained that all questions had been addressed and the team did not adequately justify its holding objection.

Although not a material consideration, concerns were also raised over cases of unauthorised development within the site, as well as work which does not comply with required planning conditions.

This was coupled with reports of people using the caravans already at the site as their main residence instead of holiday accommodation, making the number of people not only nearly the size of Stonham Aspal village but also effectively invisible from council tax.

Cllr Nicholas Hardingham, who represents Stonham ward, read out a statement submitted by Stonham Aspal Parish Council outlining the application as a massive overdevelopment of the countryside.

He said: “Locally, the site is known as the prisoner of war camp as it blights not only our parish but also the adjoining parishes.”