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'Extremely disappointing' - High Court overturns planning decision for 200 homes in Norfolk village

PUBLISHED: 16:54 26 March 2018 | UPDATED: 17:16 26 March 2018

Villagers have been battling the new housing proposal in Sculthorpe for over two years. Pictured is David Powers. Picture: Ian Burt

Villagers have been battling the new housing proposal in Sculthorpe for over two years. Pictured is David Powers. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant

A High Court judge has overturned a planning inspector’s decision to refuse planning permission to double the size of a village near Fakenham with 200 new homes.

Campaigners gathered to greet the planning inspector on the final day of the inquiry. Picture: ArchantCampaigners gathered to greet the planning inspector on the final day of the inquiry. Picture: Archant

The decision has been called “extremely disappointing” by North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) which originally refused the Sculthorpe application from Amstel Group Corporation in 2016.

The council’s decision was upheld by a government planning inspector last year following a public inquiry but another appeal by Amstel meant the case was taken to the High Court.

Mrs Justice Lang chose to overturn the inspector’s ruling, saying that he “fell into error” when he failed to take into account the public benefits that the development would bring.

Among those benefits is the offer made by Amstel - a company based in the British Virgin Islands - to supply land for a new school and contribute £372,609 towards the estimated £2.5 million needed for the building.

School childen from Sculthorpe designed their own posters to protest the proposals for a new school. Picture: ArchantSchool childen from Sculthorpe designed their own posters to protest the proposals for a new school. Picture: Archant

District councillor Tom FitzPatrick said: “This decision is extremely disappointing both for the people of the village of Sculthorpe and NNDC.

“However, it is important to note that the judge’s finding was on a single point, about the proposal to build a new primary school in the village.”

He said he plans to continue working with the parish council and Sculthorpe Action Group to resist the application.

“No matter which course is decided, I will continue to work with NNDC who will continue to fight this planning application, through the correct channels, because there is a firm belief this number of houses is wrong for the proposed location and is not sustainable,” he added.

The planning application will now go before a different planning inspector for a second hearing, unless NNDC appeals the judgment. They have three weeks to make a decision.

Tony Walters, chairman of Sculthorpe Parish Council, said: “Virtually whole village is strongly against this, no question about it. A lot of children are already driven in from outlying areas so we are already catering for more children than Sculthorpe has. In my opinion we do not need a bigger school.”

Brian Watkin, chairman of Sculthorpe Action Group and member of the parish council, said: “Villagers in Sculthorpe will be devastated by this decision. Even if Amstel is going to provide land and contribute to the cost of a new school, who will pay the other £2.1m.”

Timeline of the Sculthorpe development

North Norfolk District Council refused the planning application from Amstel Group Corporation in 2016.

The proposal was divided into two phases, with the first consisting of 71 homes, a new access road, side roads, drainage works, play areas and landscaping.

Phase two would add a further 129 homes, primary school and land for community resource centre and play area. The council refused the application because it would be “harmful to the character, appearance and intrinsic beauty” of the open countryside.

In April 2017, a six day public inquiry was held by a planning inspector to consider an appeal against that decision. It was announced three months later that the inspector would dismiss the appeal.

Amstel continued their campaign to get the scheme approved by taking the case to the High Court. It was heard in February and the result announced one month later, with the judge finding there was a legal error concerning the plan for the school and the issue must be heard again.

What do you think about the proposal? Let reporter Steve Shaw know.

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