Major sports scheme under scrutiny

A MULTI-MILLION pound housing and sports development reaches a crucial stage next week with councillors due to decide whether such a large project is needed in their district.

A MULTI-MILLION pound housing and sports development reaches a crucial stage next week with councillors due to decide whether such a large project is needed in their district.

A special meeting of Forest Heath District Council will look at forward planning for the area, including the idea of a significant sports facility for the region, which would include 5,000 homes.

Councillors will discuss whether they still want such a substantial facility in the district and how such a development would affect the housing and employment of the area.

The Watermark scheme has been earmarked for a 513-acre site between Red Lodge and Kentford, near Mildenhall.


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Neighbouring villagers opposing the scheme set up the Five Villages Preservation Trust, which will be represented at the council meeting on Wednesday.

Andrew Holman, chairman of the trust, said he would be speaking before the meeting to remind councillors that villagers wanted local facilities and not a development the area's infrastructure could not cope with.

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“The Watermark idea started with the right aspiration to provide something for the youth of Mildenhall to do, and I want to remind the councillors that we still need local facilities,” he said.

“We are very keen to see the old plans come into line with what the local people want.”

Developers Orion Land and Leisure have not yet submitted a planning application for the scheme, which would include a mile-long rowing strip, 5,000 houses, a hotel, two schools, and an indoor arena and business park.

The Regional Spatial Strategy report, produced by the East of England Regional Assembly, recognised the council's aspiration to have a regional scale leisure facility in the district.

But it said: “We consider the new settlement proposal poorly related to the sustainable development principles of the strategy both in locational terms and in other ways such as its potential impact on the water environment and reliance on car-borne commuting.”

Campaigners believed the scheme would create an extra 20,000 vehicle movements a day on the region's rural roads.

Mr Holman said: “We know the A14 is already overburdened and any development relying on using cars to get people to come to it is something we can't encourage. The infrastructure just couldn't cope with it.”

David Burnip, chief executive of the council said the meeting would give councillors the opportunity to take stock of the situation and decide whether they wanted to aspire to such a development.

Orion Land and Leisure could not be contacted for comment last night.

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