Anger over authorities’ ‘betrayal’ of agreement to protect sporting facilities and green space
- Credit: RACHEL EDGE
Authorities’ failure to protect community assets from developers has undermined the public’s confidence in planning decisions, a meeting heard.
Melton Parish Council's planning committee on Wednesday voted unanimously against Hopkins & Moore's application to build three new homes on the former St Audrys bowls green, which it had previously pledged to preserve.
Councillors also criticised Suffolk Coastal District Council, now East Suffolk Council, which they claimed failed to enforce the agreement to retain the green over recent years, leading to it becoming unused and at risk from development.
Committee chairman Nigel Brown said there had been a "betrayal" of the agreement, which gave people "no confidence in future planning matters".
East Suffolk Council said the agreement would be considered when making any decision. If minded to approve the application, ESC said the agreement would have to be amended.
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Hopkins Homes, which is affiliated with Hopkins & Moore, signed a Section 106 agreement to retain the bowls green, and other sporting facilities, as part of the 1996 Melton Park application for 200 homes on the former St Audry's Hospital site.
But the green has been out of use since 2009 when club members left following a dispute about an increase in rent. Hopkins said it was due to the club's low membership and it was now proposing to build new homes rather than leave the site unused.
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Those at Wednesday's meeting said SCDC's failure to enforce the S106 could set a precedent for other assets protected by the S106 including St Audrys Sports Club.
The club is in rent arrears with its landlord Hopkins Homes, which has offered to sell it the site for an estimated £200,000. Hopkins said the offer had been made at market value to give the club "control over their own destiny". The club also said it was "excited" about the proposal. But at the parish meeting, the club's Nick Shrubshall said while members were still optimistic about the purchase, Hopkins Homes had imposed "extortionate" rents.
Carole Gladwell said if the bowls green was built on, then she feared it would set a precedent which would put the football and cricket ground at risk.
However, Hopkins Homes has said it is not considering any alternative use for the site, at present, and it hoped the situation with the land could be resolved soon so that the club can "continue to prosper".