Council clashes over when is a house part of Soham and when is it in the countryside ‘along a single track road in a very rural location’

Chapel Lane, Soham. Google street view

Chapel Lane, Soham. Google street view - Credit: Archant

The leader of East Cambs Council has clashed with planning officers over whether part of the Soham area “is a residential street which happens to be outside the town” or in the open countryside.

The dispute has emerged in a report from the district council planning committee after officers had recommended councillors refuse a bid by Claire Norman to demolish one property at 3 Chapel Lane and replace it with two.

Councillor James Palmer, in his capacity as a ward member, insisted the application be determined by the planning committee that has now deferred it pending further reports.

Officers said the site was located “along a single track road in a very rural location, a significant distance from the defined settlement of boundary”.

They argued it was in an “unsustainable location” in keeping with the conclusion of the Planning Inspectorate in respect of a recent appeal decision regarding 14 The Cotes, Soham.

In the case of The Cotes the site was 1.8 miles from the centre of Soham – in the Chapel Lane case it was 3 miles from the town centre.

Officers said there were more sustainable locations within Soham, these were at a lower risk of flooding and if they allowed an extra house “would create an urbanising impact”.

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The highways authority suggested a passing bay on Chapel Lane would allow for traffic and the applicant’s agent reminded councillors she had the support of Soham Town Council.

The agent pointed out that the development would also contribute to the district council’s current lack of a five year land supply.

He said the site was always considered a hamlet similar to Barway and the erection of two “modest” homes would provide young people with a chance to live locally.

Cllr Palmer told the meeting Chapel Lane was part of Soham Fen and there had always been people living there: it was not open countryside because it used to have a school and a chapel.

It had been sustainable for hundreds of years and was more sustainable than it had ever been, he said.

“To suggest that development could not take place there was wrong,” he said. Referring to the inspector’s decision on The Cotes he disagreed with that outcome. Councillors took legal advice and agreed to defer a decision for an ecology report “and to have a full discussion on all aspects of the application”.

The amendment was carried by four votes to two.