Neighbours question if East Cambs Council is entitled to build 13 homes on land at Soham that is ‘technically public open space’

13 houses - including eight affordable homes - could be built in Soham.

13 houses - including eight affordable homes - could be built in Soham. - Credit: Archant

Neighbours have questioned whether East Cambs Council has the legal right to build 13 homes on land that council officers agree is “technically public open space”.

An application by East Cambs Council to build the 13 homes on land it says it owns at Soham was surprisingly withdrawn before it was determined by its planning committee.

A grassed area opposite 2 The Shades had been identified by the council’s trading arm Palace Green Homes to build the scheme that includes eight affordable homes.

However the application, recommended for approval by officers, was withdrawn at the January meeting “and determination deferred to a future date”

Neighbours questioned “whether the council is allowed to build on public open space” says council officers.

Officers also told the committee that residents had raised concerns over access to both the school and a farm ”which is already congested with vehicles and they require access for large farm machinery 24/7/”.

Palace Green Homes – East Cambs’ trading arm created last year to increase local house building – submitted an application for 13 homes to be built on a grassed area opposite 2 The Shade, in October 2016.

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According to senior case officer Andrew Phillips, the eight affordables will provide “much needed housing for people who can’t afford their own house at the current time.”

However in a report to councillors, officers concede that the site “is technically public open space. To the southwest of the site are a track and a public right of way. To the northwest is a primary school.”

The site is currently an area of grassland with a few trees with a ditch to the front of the site.

It has been used as an informal car park, say council officials, “though it is understood that often this land is used for people seeking to sell their cars.

Five market houses will be built, alongside one two-bed house, one three-bed house and six one-bed flats, “within three years of the date of permission.”

The plans were backed by Soham Town Council, which said it is “very supportive of the application, particularly where housing will directly benefit Soham residents.”