Minister asked to decide fate of homes project for old Long Row trackway in Leiston

Planning officers provided perfect reasons for refusing a controversial homes project in an east Suffolk town, but then recommended it be granted permission, say community leaders.

One of the first tasks of a new cabinet minister after the General Election will now be to decide whether to overturn the approved housing development alongside an ancient drovers track in the oldest part of Leiston.

Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council has formally agreed to send a letter to the secretary of state for communities and local government asking the minister to revoke consent for the pair of semi-detached homes in the town’s Long Row.

People living along the unadopted road – an old drovers trackway which has been in use hundreds of years and linked up old field systems – fear the building work will shake and damage their homes, which have no footings and some of which have already suffered some subsidence, and the scheme will set a precedent for the redevelopment of more spare land and gardens.

Vehicles also constantly have problems with the junction, which residents say is dangerous and unsuitable for more traffic.

There have also been serious concerns about the ability of fire engines and ambulances to get in and out of Long Row.

Councillor Ron Bailey said the letter to be sent had been composed after legal advice and help from planning experts.

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The letter highlights that Suffolk Coastal, whose councillors granted permission for the homes, said Long Row was suitable for access only by car or light van and “is clearly below the standards normally appropriate to serve in excess of 20 dwellings”.

The town council said: “In other words a track way that is inadequate for the current number of dwellings is now going to be used for a further two dwellings and possibly more in the near future.”

Because refuse lorries cannot drive along Long Row, bins of current properties are collected from an alleway at the rear. However, the district council has admitted, as the new homes will be on the opposite side, it will mean a van will have to be sent specially to Leiston each week to collect the rubbish from the two new houses – at taxpayers’ cost.

Councillor Bing Boast said: “The planning officers provide the perfect reasons for refusal and yet it was accepted.”

Mr Bailey said the decision was “absurd”.

A Suffolk Coastal report accepted the road was narrow but felt development acceptable. Concerns of residents over possible damage during construction had been noted, but this would be a private matter between residents and the contractor.

It is rare for the secretary of state to use the power of revocation. The minister will consult Suffolk Coastal as part of the investigation into the possible revocation, and even if an order is issued the council will still have 28 days to be able to request an audience with Whitehall officials to discuss the matter.

The town council has also written to Suffolk Coastal to ask that Long Row be made into a conservation area because of the area’s heritage as it is “untouched and unspoiled and should be protected”.