Neighbourhood plan ‘not worth the paper it’s written on’ scoffs councillor after cottage extension approved

Great Bealings. Picture: SIMON PARKER

Great Bealings. Picture: SIMON PARKER

Planning chiefs have been accused of “driving a coach and horses” through policies drawn up to shape the future of a village.

A parish councillor said the Great Bealings neighbourhood plan had been instantly ‘knocked for six’ by the district allowing a substantial cottage extension, with four-bay garage and underground pool.

Neighbourhood plans were introduced in 2011 to give communities power over where new homes and businesses are built, and ability to permit certain types of development.

Within the Great Bealings plan are five landscape areas to be protected – including one with views of the site, which Suffolk Coastal District Council (SCDC) said would not be altered overall.

Martin Cripps said his parish council had welcomed the owner’s renovation efforts, but that the neighbourhood plan had been rendered worthless, due to objections based on key policies not being acknowledged.

“The owner was advised that demolishing the property would not fit in with the neighbourhood plan,” said Mr Cripps.

“Following meetings with the planning officer, a revised application was submitted for a significantly larger extension.

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“We agreed it contravened four district policies and three in the neighbourhood plan – due largely to it overlooking the Fynn Valley.

“Our neighbourhood plan took four years to put together; was paid for by public money; got full backing from the district council; and was supported by 96% of people at referendum – so it’s surprising that the planning committee drove a coach and horses through it.

“This knocks our plan for six. We would never know its strength until it was put to the test – and this is the first application since it was adopted. It’s not worth the paper it’s written on.

“Our neighbouring village, Playford, is just starting the same process. If our experience is anything to go by, it will afford no protection whatsoever.”

SCDC said the extension would not alter the overall composition of the view; that the size and scale were acceptable; and that it would not need major reconstruction.

The applicant, said the council, had worked closely with the its conservation team and supported the neighbourhood plan’s aims.

Last spring, community leaders in Leiston felt their draft plan had been left ‘defunct’ after bids for 650 homes were submitted on sites before the public had voted on it.

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