Housing developers lose latest battle to remove bowling green’s community status
- Credit: RACHEL EDGE
Plans by a housing developer to strip a bowling green of its community asset status have been rejected by East Suffolk Council.
Hopkins Homes had sought to have the asset of community value (ACV) status removed from the bowling green in Melton.
The land was marked as an ACV last November as the Melton Park Community Scheme Association (CSA) sought to ensure the site remained in community use as enshrined in an agreement on the land signed by Hopkins in the 1990s.
The change in status also followed a withdrawn planning application by Hopkins Homes affiliate Hopkin and Moore, for three properties on the site.
Hopkins argued that the site should not have been listed as an ACV as it had not been in community use for around a decade and appealed the council’s decision.
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Now, a council review into the status of the land has shown serious concerns about Hopkins Homes’ handling of the site.
Among the report’s concerns were that Hopkins Homes had increased the rent on the green by around 400% in a year, without justification.
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“It would not be unreasonable to conclude that these actions were either in breach of the Agreement or at the least against the spirit of the Agreement,” read the report.
“I am of the view that these were the actions of an Owner who was content for the Land to remain vacant thereby assisting its subsequent efforts to secure residential planning permission.”
The report concluded that “there could be a use of the Land that would further the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community” in the next five years and refused the developers request.
What does the community think?
A spokesman for the CSA said: “We are very happy with the decision and it is undoubtedly right.
“This is a question of social responsibilty. Commitments were made by Hopkins to the Council at the time of the planning application way back in 1996 and these were enshrined in the section 106 and the Community scheme that followed.
“Amenity land, consisting of playing fields and a bowling green, cannot be hived off and built upon contrary to the original agreement. The ACV Listing reinforces that point.
“We hope that Hopkins understand it is largely their approach which has generated such substantial opposition.
“In the end, this is not just about a bowling green but about the environment here, as well as commitments made by Hopkins to the purchasers of the houses, and a right of way into the woods.
“We seek more friendly behaviour towards residents, many of whom bought their houses off plan from Hopkins who have made no small gain from us.
“We believe a solution can be achieved. We will be pleased to meet with Hopkins at Riduna Park with ESC, and the Parish Council.”
What did Hopkins Homes say?
Despite the council’s report, Hopkins Homes says it will submit another planning application on the site.
Simon Bryan, development director at Hopkins Homes, said: “We are disappointed East Suffolk Council has confirmed their decision to list the land to the north east of Garrod Approach, Melton, as an Asset of Community Value.
“We continue to believe there is no basis for this designation as it does not meet the requirements of section 88 of the Localism Act 2011.
“We are considering the legal options available to us.
“Even if the land is listed as an Asset of Community Value it does not necessarily prevent it from being developed.
“We intend to resubmit a planning application for the site in the coming months and will be talking to the local community and the parish council about how we can shape these proposals so that they deliver wider benefits to the community through off-site contributions to support sports and leisure facilities that are accessible to all members of the parish.”