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'No need for it': Campaigners rally against 150 homes plan as inquiry opens

PUBLISHED: 16:09 25 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:09 25 June 2019

The planning inquiry into plans to build 150 homes on Skylark Fields, off Station Road in Long Melford, has begun Picture: MARK LANGFORD

The planning inquiry into plans to build 150 homes on Skylark Fields, off Station Road in Long Melford, has begun Picture: MARK LANGFORD

Archant

A planning inquiry has begun into controversial plans for 150 homes in a picturesque Suffolk village, with campaigners arguing that it would be "harmful" to the area.

Skylark Fields, off Station Road in Long Melford, on which developer Gladman wants to build 150 homes Picture: MARK LANGFORDSkylark Fields, off Station Road in Long Melford, on which developer Gladman wants to build 150 homes Picture: MARK LANGFORD

Developers Gladman want to build the houses in Skylark Field off Station Road in Long Melford but have faced fierce opposition from villagers.

They formed the Save Our Skylark Fields (SOS) group and raised £30,000 to fund the legal battle, claiming the development would be unsuitable and the village did not need the new homes.

Babergh District Council's planning committee unanimously voted to refuse the plans last December but Gladman appealed prior to the hearing on the grounds the council did not resolve the application in the timeframe required.

The decision will now be made by the planning inspectorate and the inquiry, which is scheduled to last five days, began at AFC Sudbury football club under inspector Kenneth Stone.

Opposition by residents of Long Melford to the development plan for Skylark Fields has been strong Picture: MARK LANGFORDOpposition by residents of Long Melford to the development plan for Skylark Fields has been strong Picture: MARK LANGFORD

Martin Carter, for Gladman, told the hearing that Babergh did not have enough homes planned to meet its five year supply obligation, and its planning guidelines for new devlopments were out of date.

Gladman did not accept the development would be visually obtrusive or have an impact on the historical heart of Long Melford, and he said the council and SOS were "overstating the impact" of the scheme.

"Although Long Melford is undoubtedly a settlement with significant historic and landscape interest the appeal site is located well away from the historic parts...and seperated from them by a considerable area of 20th century development," he said.

"It plays no particular role in providing a setting for the historic settlement."

Long Melford resident and Suffolk County Council member Richard Kemp Picture: ANDREW PARTRIDGELong Melford resident and Suffolk County Council member Richard Kemp Picture: ANDREW PARTRIDGE

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But Robin Green for Babergh District Council said: "The site is part of the tranquil countryside setting of Long Melford.

"To build up to 150 houses is contrary to many processes controlling development in the countryside.

"The development would unashamedly project into the countryside. The scale of of the development would result in a highly urbanised enclave."

David Whipps for SOS added: "Long Melford is a special place, it is a village of great charm and character.

"The proposal is harmful from a heritage and landscape perspective, but also because there is no need for it,"

Long Melford resident and county councillor Richard Kemp told the hearing that in the last two years Long Melford had already accepted around 200 new houses in three major developments, which he said was "more than our fair share considering the size of the village".

The Gladman scheme was roughly double the size of the largest of the three recent developments, he added.

"If permission to build such a huge development outside the natural boundary to the village of the old railway line was given, other applications would follow and development would continue all the way up to the by-pass," he said.

"That would turn Long Melford into a town and completely ruin its attraction to residents and visitors alike"

The hearing continues.

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