Bid for 279 homes rejected amid fears of people being 'trapped' in floods

Aerial shot of Needham Market

Land on the edge of Needham Market where plans for 279 homes were rejected - Credit: Google Maps

Plans for 279 homes in Needham Market have been unanimously rejected amid fears people could have been left "trapped" in the event of flooding.

Proposals to develop grade two agricultural land off Barking Road were presented to Mid Suffolk District Council's development control committee on Wednesday, which planned 279 homes - 100 of which would be affordable.

However, planning officers had recommended refusal because some information had not been provided. There were also concerns over the impact on the agricultural landscape and extension of the town.

The proposal also included only one main point of access from Barking Road through a "medium to high probability flood zone".

Planning officer Jasmine Whyard said that meant there is "a wholly realistic prospect that any future occupants will, at times, have difficulty accessing the site and could become trapped".

Council leader Matthew Hicks said Suffolk needed a council that was representative of the population

Mid Suffolk development control committee chairman Matthew Hicks said the 279 homes plans for Needham Market did not provide benefits which outweighed the harm

A back-up access point had been identified at the north of the site but planning officers said there was not sufficient information to guarantee arrangements with landowners would confirm that could be guaranteed.

Highways guidance indicates that for any more than 150 homes, more than one point of access should be included.

The site is not considered for development in either the emerging joint local plan by the district council or the emerging neighbourhood plan being developed by the parish council.

Councillor Matthew Hicks, committee chairman, said: "We want to ensure that the right properties are built in the right places in Mid Suffolk and after much consideration our committee reached a decision that this development would not fulfil this aim - reflecting the view of many residents.

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"Whilst I commend the developer for offering a substantial amount of affordable housing, the benefits of proposals don't outweigh the considerable harm of this application to the rural landscape and agricultural land, or justify development on countryside outside of Needham Market's settlement boundary."

Part of the site had been the subject of a previous application lodged in 2016 for 152 homes, although that was rejected in August 2017.

Jason Parker, agent on behalf of the private developers, said that the council's committee "refused the [2016] application solely on the basis that there was no emergency access so that in the event of a flood the main access would be flooded, and it was felt the school facilities would be too far away".

He added: "What we have tried to do with this application is to address the emergency access issue.

"We feel that it dealt with the reason for refusal and provided additional information in terms of connectivity to facilities and services."

It is not yet clear if the developers, who had called for an extension of time to determining the plans so that questions could be answered, will appeal the decision.