80 homes for Suffolk village approved 18 months after being due for refusal
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Plans to develop a chicken farm in Weybread into scores of homes have been approved, more than 18 months after they were due to be refused.
Crown Chicken Ltd originally sought permission at the start of 2019 to demolish buildings at its site on Crown Farm and build 110 homes there, but were put on hold after developers withdrew the application before it went to Mid Suffolk District Council's development control committee in March that year.
They had requested a meeting with council planners before it was debated by councillors, however the officer recommendation prior to the committee meeting had been for refusal on the basis that there was not enough adequate infrastructure to address the extra demand on roads, schools and health services.
Revised outline plans for 80 homes were submitted in February this year, and planning permission granted by officers on Christmas Eve under delegated powers.
The officer report said the number of homes had been revised down following negotiations with officers to reduce the density of properties, while "further reductions in density to achieve an authentic rural character have been achieved by spreading the units across a wider area".
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A remote conference call by the parish council during the first Covid-19 lockdown in April was held to discuss the revised plans, following a village survey, with the vast majority of respondents to that preferring the reduced number of homes. The parish council was marginally in favour of the tweaked proposal.
According to Mid Suffolk's report, Crown Chicken Ltd which runs the plant has invested £78million into a new state-of-the-art processing facility in Eye to replace the Weybread site, with the Crown Farm homes plan helping to fund that move. The new facility opened at the start of 2020.
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The council said: "That investment has meant that an important business has remained within the district".
However, while some developer contributions including £100,000 for community centre upgrades and around £80,000 each for school transport and affordable housing have been offered, the council said it was "dramatically below" expected contributions. However, it said it was acceptable because of "challenging viability issues and the narrow margin produced".
It added: "It is concluded that the residential use of this non-conforming industrial site is acceptable and a preferred alternative to the continued use of the site for commercial purposes.
"Whilst part of the site is within what is defined as countryside the fact that part of the site is within the defined settlement boundary of Weybread ‘The Street’ and the remainder immediately adjoining it suggests that residential use will not represent an uncharacteristic intrusion into the countryside."
Agents for the developers have been approached for comment.