‘This decision is damaging and inappropriate’ - reaction to Government go-ahead for 400 homes in Suffolk

Horses ride on Warren Hill, protesting against the Hatchfield Farm housing development in Newmarket

Horses ride on Warren Hill, protesting against the Hatchfield Farm housing development in Newmarket Picture: PHIL MORLEY - Credit: Archant

The decision by the top tier of Government to allow a controversial 400-home planning application in Newmarket has been branded as “damaging” for the horseracing industry.

Public demonstration in 2015 against the Hatchfield Farm housing plans for Newmarket Picture: GREGG

Public demonstration in 2015 against the Hatchfield Farm housing plans for Newmarket Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

The Earl of Derby's plans for hundreds of homes at Hatchfield Farm have been fiercely contested by the town's horseracing community for the past 12 years, with major concerns over the impact of increased traffic on this 'internationally-important' industry.

MORE: Inquiry into controversial Hatchfield Farm 400 homes plan near Newmarket beginsThe smaller-scale plan for up to 400 homes was lodged in 2013 and has since been subject to two planning inquiries, but yesterday Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick gave his backing to the scheme.

He felt delivery of the homes, including affordable units, carried 'substantial weight' and the new horse crossing and works to the A14/A142 junction each also attracted 'significant weight' in favour of the proposals.

Speaking as a district councillor, Rachel Hood said: 'It's a very surprising outcome given the international and national importance of Newmarket. It's one of our real heritage assets.'

Ms Hood, Mayor of Newmarket, added: 'There will probably be a judicial review, but at the end of the day if our UK planning laws don't protect a heritage asset like Newmarket they are not fit-for-purpose.'

MORE: Horseracing industry 'confident' Newmarket Hatchfield Farm 400 houses will be denied despite High Court decision

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Ms Hood, who is also a Suffolk County councillor for Newmarket, said the entire racing and breeding industry would be 'very surprised and disappointed', but the Secretary of State agreed with planning inspector Richard Schofield that overall the proposal 'would not have an adverse impact on the horseracing industry and its viability in Newmarket, either now or in the longer term'.

A spokesperson on behalf of the Newmarket Horsemen's Group (NHG), which campaigned against the plans, said: 'We note the decision of the Secretary of State. We are currently reviewing the reasons given for the decision and consulting with our legal advisors. At this stage we have nothing further to add.'

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During the planning inquiry in May last year, David Elvin QC, representing NHG, said increased traffic posed a 'threat to riders', adding 'the value of the animals is high'.

A spokesperson for Sansovino Developments, which is bringing forward the development for Lord Derby, said: 'We are pleased that the Secretary of State has now agreed with the recommendation of the inspector and granted planning permission for the development of 400 homes at Hatchfield Farm.

'This has been a lengthy process over many years, during which time the housing need in Newmarket has continued to increase. We look forward to moving forward with the whole community and bringing forward the new homes in Newmarket which so many people require.'

The Secretary of State said some loss of the best and most versatile agricultural land was 'inevitable' if the area's housing and employment development targets were to be met.

Newmarket Town councillor Andrew Appleby said: 'I am happy that this matter appears settled, subject to any objections, but am currently more concerned with re-establishing a Newmarket Cricket Club and seeking to prevent the district council implementing a ridiculous decision to increase the parking charging period in Newmarket which, I believe, will be detrimental to the town as a whole.'

There are conditions attached to the planning permission.

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