Newmarket: Inquiry into Hatchfield Farm homes plan begins

CAMPAIGNERS fighting controversial plans to build 1,200 homes in the heart of Newmarket claim the scheme could threaten the future of racing in the town.

Protesters and members of the racing industry packed into the first day of a public inquiry into an appeal launched by the Earl of Derby at Forest Heath District Council offices yesterday, to build the ambitious development on his land at Hatchfield Farm in Fordham Road, Newmarket.

Forest Heath District Councillors refused Lord Derby’s original application to site up to 1,200 homes as well as restaurants, shops, a park and ride scheme and space for a primary school on the green field site, last month.

But the peer yesterday launched an appeal against the ruling, claiming the scheme would bring economic benefits to Newmarket and its population.

Jonathan Karas QC, speaking on behalf of Lord Derby at the hearing at Forest Heath’s headquarters in Mildenhall, said: “Newmarket needs this development.

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“The Earl of Derby is committed to racing and to Newmarket as the home of racing.

“The Stanley family has been at the heart of racing since the 17th century.

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“This is a proposal designed with the future of racing and Newmarket as a key priority.”

But Simon Bird QC, speaking on behalf of Tattersalls Group which includes the Newmarket Trainers’ Federation and the Newmarket Stud Farmers Association, said the project could create higher traffic volumes, which could threaten the racing industry, which provides around a third of the town’s employment.

“The key issue is harm which would result to the character and appearance of the town and risks to the industry which the appeal proposal would give rise to by reason of its scale and impacts,” Mr Bird said.

“It is too great a change for a town with the unique characteristics of Newmarket to bear.”

David Elvin QC, speaking on behalf of the Save Historic Newmarket group, said the proposal could alter the delicate balance between traffic and horses in the town.

“It is about an ill-judged proposal on the edge of a unique town, which puts at risk the highly valuable and long-established racing industry which makes a substantial contribution to the local and national economy,” he said.

Michael Bedford, acting for Forest Heath District Council, said the homes promised by the development to help fill the authority’s former core strategy housing allocation was no longer appropriate, after parts of the policy had been quashed by the High Court in April.

With the council set to launch a single issue review into its core strategy on July 27, Mr Bedford said it was inappropriate to approve such a large-scale application at this stage.

“This inquiry is about the future of a unique town and a unique British success story and whether achieving a short-term gain justifies taking risks with the longer-term future of Newmarket and its most visible industry,” he said.

The public inquiry is expected to run for at least the next three weeks.

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