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Village fears backing for 295 new homes is first step towards ‘rural destruction’

PUBLISHED: 10:19 13 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:21 17 December 2018

People living in Debenham objected to the plans for 295 new homes Picture: PHIL MORLEY

People living in Debenham objected to the plans for 295 new homes Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Archant

Suffolk villagers have accused district planners of an “outrageous” attempt to push through 295 new homes against the community’s wishes.

Debenham Parish Council has been fighting Taylor Wimpey’s plans to increase the size of the village by nearly a third and hoped its neighbourhood plan would mean the council would reject the developers’ application.

But Mid Suffolk District Council’s (MSDC) planning officers have recommended the application for approval when it goes before a committee on December 19.

The recommendation has infuriated the parish council, particularly as it conflicts with the neighbourhood plan it spent six years working on with MSDC.

The plan recently won the backing of an independent examiner, overcoming objections from Taylor Wimpey, which had submitted rival proposals.

Villagers welcomed the news, believing the plan would now determine future development.

MORE: Village defeats major house-builder in row over future development

It will go to referendum for final approval in the new year, but by that time the bid for 295 new homes is likely to have already been decided. Parish chairman Steve Palframan said the officers’ recommendation was an “outrageous attempt to ride roughshod over communities”.

“It is a flagrant and cynical attempt to tick boxes for target purposes, to secure the financial benefits that accrue to the authority as a result of swamping the area with houses,” he added.

“The report is the first piece in the jigsaw of rural village destruction, effectively opening the door to urban sprawl in quintessential character-filled hamlets, by doubling the size of communities.”

Mr Palframan said Debenham had worked in “good faith” with MSDC for six years to create its neighbourhood plan, only for officers to disregard it.

“This has severe implications for the other communities who are embarking upon the long and daunting task of creating neighbourhood plans,” he said.

“If we in Debenham have got to the penultimate stage of getting a neighbourhood plan ‘made’, and still it carries no weight in the eyes of planners, just why would volunteers in communities across the whole country bother?”

MSDC’s cabinet member for housing praised Debenham’s neighbourhood plan and assured the community it would still influence the committee’s decision.

Glen Horn admitted people would be disappointed the application was being considered before the referendum. But he added: “We want to assure residents that their neighbourhood plan does still hold weight in the committee’s decisions.”

Taylor Wimpey said it was pleased the proposals had been recommended for approval, adding that land would be set aside in the development for a new primary school and sporting or recreational facilities.

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