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Campaigners in Sculthorpe hoping public inquiry will say no to Indigo over bid to build 200 homes and double the size of their village

PUBLISHED: 15:40 12 April 2017

Villagers have been protesting the proposed new housing proposals in Sculthorpe since 2015. Picture: Ian Burt

Villagers have been protesting the proposed new housing proposals in Sculthorpe since 2015. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant

Campaigners fighting controversial plans to double the size of a village near Fakenham with 200 new homes are in confident mood ahead of a public inquiry starting this month.

North Norfolk District Council turned down Amstel Group Corporation’s plans to build the homes in the middle of Sculthorpe last year because councillors decided that the scheme is not sustainable.

The company’s agents, Indigo, appealed the decision.

A public inquiry is set to take place on Tuesday, April 25, and residents are optimistic that the decision will not be overturned.

Brian Watkins, chairman of a campaign group called Save Sculthorpe, said: “We’re concerned that they may win but we don’t believe they will.”

He says that Indigo’s appeal is based on a flawed understanding of the council’s plans for the future and Indigo claims the council does not have a five year plan. But Mr Watkins says he is certain that they do.

“They choose not to think of the houses that are being planned in nearby Fakenham and they don’t consider whether this development will do any damage to the community or the village. The vast majority of people in the village are against it.”

Indigo’s housing proposals are based on research conducted in 2014 which concluded that there is a need for housing in the Fakenham area. Sculthorpe was deemed to be a suitable location due to in part to its proximity to the town and its public transport links.

County councillor, Dr Marie Strong, said: “Sculthorpe is a village in the true sense of the word which is why the parish came together so quickly and strongly to fight the plan for over development.

“I am the county councillor for Sculthorpe and I stand by the statement from Norfolk County Council that the proposed development would conflict with the aims of achieving sustainable development by minimising travel, by encouraging walking, cycling, use of public transport and reducing the reliance on the private car.

“Despite any resolution of any technical matters relating to the design and delivery of highways mitigation measures and layout considerations - including detailed Safety Audit responses - the strategic sustainability objection remains, and we believe that it cannot be overcome.”

Why does Sculthorpe object to housing?

The village does not completely object to residential developments, according to local campaigner Brian Watkins, but the proposal to build 200 new homes would double the size of the village and in turn, completely transform it.

Mr Watkins says people would prefer “organic growth” and slow development, he says building 200 homes in a village that only has around 200 homes would make it impossible for them to be naturally absorbed.

Indigo says the Fakenham area needs more housing but it is not clear if they have acknowledged that more than 800 homes are set to be built in the town.

Furthermore, there are concerns over infrastructure and that the village may be too small to support a larger population. Roads do not have the capacity to handle a large amount of traffic and the sewer system operating at its current capacity has been known to become overloaded.

What is Indigo’s point of view?

Indigo was contacted for this article but no one was available to comment but based on previous statements, the company believes that the council’s planning policies are “out of date”.

Despite the forthcoming development of more 800 homes in Fakenham, they claim that they can provide evidence of a “pressing need for housing” in the area.

On their website for the development, Indigo says that plans are based on research conducted in 2014 when people in the area told them there is a need for new or enhanced school facilities, community amenities, and appropriate housing.

The company also envisions a new school eventually being part of the development because they believe they current one does not have the facilities that a modern school should have. But the county council has said that it cannot support a new school as there is room in existing schools and the village is not large enough.

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