Minister rules council was right to decide bid for homes on land it sold

An aerial view of the planned development of the former Suffolk Coastal office site. Picture: HOOPER

An aerial view of the planned development of the former Suffolk Coastal office site. Picture: HOOPERS ARCHITECTS - Credit: Archant

Government officials have ruled that a district council was at liberty to determine a proposal for new housing on land it sold to a developer.

Last month, Suffolk Coastal’s planning committee approved a bid for 100 homes at the council’s former offices in Melton Hill.

The application had been recommended for approval by officers, despite generating more than 300 public objections.

Campaigners appealed to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, to ‘call in’ the decision – taking it out of the hands of Suffolk Coastal, which sold the land, subject to contract, to Active Urban Property Group (AUPG).

The request called for the Government to decide on the application – a procedure known as ‘calling in’, which can be requested if it is believed a local authority is due to approve a potentially damaging proposal.


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But the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has now written to inform the district council that it was entitled to make the decision, and that it was the relevant body to ensure environmental regulations were complied with.

Despite failing to enact ‘call-in’ policy, objectors are understood to be considering a possible referral to the Local Government Ombudsman, which has the power to investigate complaints of a council has behaving unreasonably or failing to follow correct procedure.

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Failing that, they could launch a judicial review in the High Court – a course of action taken by the No Adastral New Town (NANT) group, which lost its battle against approval of 2,000 homes on BT-owned land next to Adastral Park, in Martlesham Heath.

Rachael Beard, DCLG planning casework manager, said: “The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.

“In deciding whether to call in this application, the Secretary of State has considered his policy on calling in planning applications.

“The Secretary of State has decided, having had regard to this policy, not to call in this application.

“He is content that it should be determined by the local planning authority.”

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