Wickham Market: Officers back controversial development

Wickham Market

Wickham Market - Credit: Mike Page

CONTROVERSIAL plans for a housing development on the edge of a Suffolk town have been recommended for approval.

Officers at Suffolk Coastal District Council have backed the 65-home scheme earmarked for land in Wickham Market ahead of a meeting of the development committee on Wednesday.

The application submitted by developer Hopkins Homes, which includes plans for 21 affordable homes, has divided opinion over the past year. Wickham Market Parish Council is broadly supportive of the scheme but other people in the area have raised concerns about its potential impact, especially as it stretches to the parish boundary with the neighbouring village of Pettistree.

The district council has received 34 letters of objection which cite numerous concerns including the loss of good quality agricultural land, an increased risk of flooding and the inadequacy of the sewage systems in place.

A petition signed by 136 people objecting to the application has also been sent to the council, as well as 50 cards entitled “Act Now to Save Our Village”.

But in their report officers say the eight-acre site is already identified as a potential housing site in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment and that it is close enough to the services and facilities in the town centre to make the project viable.

They concede that under normal circumstances the site, which is located beyond the last house to the south of town, would for planning purposes generally be regarded “in the open countryside where there is a presumption against new residential development”.

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But the report adds that, in this case, this consideration is overridden by recommendations in the National Planning Policy Framework that stipulate local authorities must show they have a five-year housing land supply.

The report reads: “At present, under the current Local Plan, Suffolk Coastal is unable to demonstrate a five-year supply of housing sites. There is only one housing allocation remaining from the current Local Plan.

“Based upon the December 2012 Housing Land Supply Assessment, Suffolk Coastal currently has a housing land supply of 2.6 years. Therefore, the housing supply policies in the adopted Local Plan cannot be considered up to date.”

The officers said they recommended the scheme for approval on condition that Hopkins Homes contributes £30,000 towards pre-school provision and up to £90,000 towards new library space in the town. The developer must also guarantee the delivery of the affordable homes and make suitable improvements to relevant roads, drain systems and footpaths.