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Controversial plans for hundreds of homes and school in Lakenheath given go-ahead

PUBLISHED: 14:49 20 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:12 21 September 2017

Sajid Javid. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Sajid Javid. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Controversial plans for hundreds of new homes and a primary school in Lakenheath have been given the green light after the government decided not to intervene.

Plans for up to 375 homes and a new primary school at Station Road North, up to 81 homes at Rabbit Hill Covert, 67 in Briscoe Way and up to 140 on land west of Eriswell Road, had all previously been approved by Forest Heath District Council’s Development Control Committee.

But all four sites were referred to the Sajid Javid, secretary of state for communities and local government, by an unknown third party.

This resulted in planning permission being put on hold via an Article 31 Direction while the government decided whether to take responsibility over their determination.

Mr Javid has now decided not to call the applications in and has withdrawn the Article 31 Directions.

The applications, which together would increase the number of homes in the village by around a quarter, have provoked much local opposition.

Lakenheath Parish Council objected to the applications, with concerns ranging from “sprawling” developments in the countryside, loss of village boundaries, and highways issues, as well as the lack of jobs and services for new residents.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) initially objected over the impact of aircraft noise on people living in the new homes, but say they have worked to reach an agreement on planning conditions, and are happy for the developments to go ahead.

In a letter giving notice of the decision, the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.

“In deciding whether to call in these applications, the secretary of state has considered his policy on calling in planning applications.

“This policy gives examples of the types of issues which may lead him to conclude, in his opinion that the application should be called in.

The secretary of state has decided, having had regard to this policy, not to call in these applications. He is content that they should be determined by the local planning authority.

“The Article 31 Directions pursuant to the secretary of state’s letter issued in relation to these applications are hereby withdrawn.”

Hermione Brown, chairman of the planning subcommittee at Lakenheath Parish Council, said: “The Parish Council are not against phased development for our village with the appropriate infrastructure.

“We feel we now have no choice but to defend our community against this massive over-development, which will dramatically increase the size of our village with very little improvement in its infrastructure.

“We are dismayed that the MoD have withdrawn strong objections without giving us any good reasons.

“The people of Lakenheath are against the huge growth having given the parish council a mandate in a popular vote to challenge the developments through the legal process.

“This followed a survey via the Lakenheath Times, our monthly magazine for the village, where we received an overwhelming positive response.

“There are constant references being made to a school being needed so that local children will be able to attend school in the village.

“I have checked with a school governor and can confirm that everyone who applied for a place this year got a place. No new houses, no new school needed. “The facts are we can see no precedent in modern times for the sitting of a primary school directly under the flight path of fighter jet aircraft. We would also point out that there are currently vacancies for pre-school provision within the village.

“We will continue to fight for improved public transport. Will the village get additional buses?

“Whatever junction improvements take place at Sparks Farm, this will not help the High Street, parking issues and log jams as large tractors and school buses try to get through.

“What improvements are in place for the village centre? Where will people work? Our health surgery is already overstretched.

“It is important that the parish council truly represent the village and its long-term prospects.”

A spokesman for the MoD said: “The MoD initially objected to these plans as we were concerned about the impact of aircraft noise on the people who would live in the new houses.

“We have since worked very closely with noise and planning experts and Forest Heath District Council to reach an agreement on planning conditions which means the developers are obliged to provide both details on how they will insulate houses and proof that maximum appropriate noise levels have been met.

“We are therefore happy for these developments to go ahead.”

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