Inquiry into controversial Hatchfield Farm 400 homes plan near Newmarket begins
- Credit: SOPHIE SMITH LTD
A planning inquiry into a long-running and controversial scheme to build 400 homes which opponents say threatens the Suffolk home of British horseracing has begun.
The scheme for Hatchfield Farm by the Earl of Derby would also see a primary school built and five hectares of land set aside for business development.
West Suffolk Council is in favour of the scheme and has already included it in the local plan.
But it is being fiercely opposed by the Newmarket Horsemen's Group (NHG), which represents the horseracing industry.
They say it would add to already heavy congestion in Newmarket town centre, while extra traffic posed a threat to racehorses using Rayes Lane horse crossing and horse movements in general around the town - jeopardising an industry worth billions and key to the regional economy.
A formal planning application was submitted in October 2013 and subsequently approved, but the decision has not been resolved because it was called in by then-environment secretary Sajid Javid.
The 12-day inquiry is being held by the Planning Inspectorate at the council offices in Mildenhall and is being chaired by inspector Richard Schofield.
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Among those due to give evidence are the Jockey Club and Hugh Anderson, managing director of the world-famous Godolphin racing stables.
Christopher Boyle QC, for Lord Derby, said there was a need for more housing in Newmarket and the scheme had local support.
The development would see a major upgrading of the A14/A142 junction, benefitting this part of the road network particularly in peak periods, together with a significant impact to southbound queues along Fordham Road and a reduction in rat running along Snailwell Road.
But David Elvin QC, for NHG, told the hearing: "The proposal will put more traffic into a network already suffering from severe traffic conditions.
"The horseracing industry is of considerable importance to the area, and the threat of relocation is there. There is a threat to riders from adverse traffic, the value of the animals is high.
"This is not something the racing industry takes any great pleasure in doing, but we dispute the benefits the applicant puts forward. We think they have been overstated."
The hearing continues.