Opponents' joy as homes plan rejected

Chris HillNeighbours celebrated a victory for people power as councillors rejected controversial plans to build 10 houses on the fringes of a Dereham beauty spot.Chris Hill

Neighbours celebrated a victory for people power as councillors rejected controversial plans to build 10 houses on the fringes of a Dereham beauty spot.

The proposals for the two-storey homes on paddock land off Norwich Road - neighbouring the popular parkland area of Neatherd Moor - provoked a furious reaction from opponents when they were submitted to Breckland Council.

The concerns centred on the potential impact of extra housing and traffic on the Neatherd's rural charm.

Principal planning officer Nick Moys told the council's development control committee that the scheme was sensitively designed and its effects 'would not be substantially harmful to justify a refusal'.

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But committee members went against his advice and voted to refuse the proposals.

The decision was greeted with applause from about 20 townspeople who attended the meeting to hear the outcome of the debate.

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One of them was John Eaton, who lives in one of three houses served by the access road, and spoke on behalf of the objectors.

He said: 'The Little Neatherd Moor is a valued public amenity, well used and cherished by local people as one of the last truly free open spaces left in this town.

'Its use must balance its value and its protection rests in the hands of local authorities where it was established in 1910 for the benefit of all.'

After hearing the decision, Mr Eaton said: 'It is a great success for the protection of the moor, which has been going on for 100 years ever since it was made common land.'

One of the key concerns was that the existing roughly-made access track would need 'substantial reinforcement' to cope with traffic from another 10 houses, which would also detract from the moor's character.

Planning agent Jamie Bird, speaking on behalf of the developer, said those concerns were unfounded.

He said: 'We simply seek to use the existing metal road, but we would resurface and repair it - that would be the only difference. We have always said we would try to minimise the impact of this proposal and retain the rural feel of the Neatherd.'

The committee's decision has also prevented Dereham Town Council generating funds from its ownership of the access road. A provisional agreement had been reached with the developers to sell a right of way on the track if planning permission had been granted.

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