'It looks like amateur hour' - Developers and planners criticised as controversial housing row finally concludes
PUBLISHED: 18:58 21 February 2019 | UPDATED: 07:38 22 February 2019
A two year housing row ended this afternoon amid heavy criticism of developers and planners - and calls for cash as a "gesture of good will".
Persimmon Homes’ applications for its 95-home development in Mount Pleasant, Framlingham, were narrowly voted through on Thursday by Suffolk Coastal District Council’s planning committee.
The developers had been previously accused of building homes in the wrong place and design – but officers said this afternoon they now believed all but a few buildings were in the correct position, and those that were not did not constitute serious breaches.
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They said Persimmon had resolved the design issues, and recommended the applications’ approval.
Many councillors expressed frustration with the process.
Christopher Hudson, who spoke as a Framlingham ward member, said it had been “one unholy mess” and suggested Persimmon could make amends by offering £100,000 to fund a new community centre for the town “as a good will gesture”. Officers said this could not be requested.
Mr Hudson said the application had been a “litany of mistakes”, which had “tarnished the image” of planning enforcement and brought the council into “disrepute”. “It looks like amateur hour,” he added.
Committee member Stephen Burroughes said the application had been an “absolute embarrassment” for SCDC and Persimmon.
Fellow member Mike Deacon called for new guidelines to ensure “we are not taken for a ride by developers who ignore our recommendations”.
Committee chairman Debbie McCallum said the whole situation has been “very unfortunate”.
“I hope, to some extent, Persimmon has learnt to work with us and the people who are going to live there,” she added.
Persimmon’s applications had already been discussed last year after SCDC issued enforcement notices and wrote to residents warning that their homes did not have full planning permission, due to the design and layout issues.
The applications sought approval for the variations between what was approved and what had been built.
Although officers recommended the committee approve the applications in November, members refused, highlighting a “catalogue of errors” with the development.
Instead, the decisions were deferred so a liaison group could be set up between residents, developers and councils to find a solution.
Following November’s meeting, Persimmon submitted overlaid plans to show that one of the new homes, which had been subject to several complaints, was in the correct position. Planning officers said they agreed.
However, David Beal, the owner of a neighbouring property, said it was “incredible” officers had changed their mind. He disputed the plans presented by Persimmon, which he said did not reflect the original application.
Simon Garrett, vice-chairman of Framlingham Town Council, also said the layouts did not match the original submissions. He called on the committee to defer or refuse the applications
Persimmon’s head of land Verity MacMahon claimed all houses had been built in the right place.
She said a range of design changes had been made including adding barge boards, finials and stone sills, to bring it into line with the approved application. Ms MacMahon also said some of the criticisms about external pipes and boxes were “incidental” and did not require amending.
She acknowledged “things could have been done differently” but added “I think we worked really hard to rectify things”.
Christopher Sharpe, chairman of Framlingham Residents’ Association said Persimmon had done the “bare minimum” and urged the committee “not to let the developer off the hook”.
Planning officers said that with the exception of some painting work, which would be completed when the weather improves, all work had been done to their satisfaction.
Following the committee’s vote to approve the applications, resident William Taylor said: “It’s a huge relief, because this has been hanging over us for nearly two years.
MORE: Homeowners hit back against claims their estate has been a ‘disaster’
“We’ve made these our homes and any threat that anything would happened to them was quite unsettling. It seems common sense has prevailed.”