Affordable housing ‘red herring’ claim as councillors go against officers and refuse 19 homes

Site South East Of 34 - 36 Chapel Lane Wicken, which has been refused permission for 19 homes. The a

Site South East Of 34 - 36 Chapel Lane Wicken, which has been refused permission for 19 homes. The applicants were Mr R Wilson, K Arrowsmith and J Magri. Picture; GOOGLE - Credit: Archant

The promise of more affordable homes on a proposed new estate in Wicken was described by parish councillors as a “red herring”.

The accusation was made during a virtual debate by East Cambridgeshire District Council planning committee that refused permission for 19 homes at Wicken.

The outline application for land between Chapel Lane and Drury Lane was turned down despite the applicants claiming the council had failed Government targets for new housing.

Councillors were advised highways, visual amenity, flood risk and the effect on nearby homes were for them to determine.

Officers had put forward the recommendation to approve the application, pointing out nearly a third of the site would provide affordable homes.

They argued the scheme was “considered to be sustainable” and would contribute to the local housing supply.

Catherine Looper, senior planning officer,said that she did not believe the new estate would result in “significantly detrimental impacts to neighbouring occupiers”.

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One resident told the committee that other development in the area had created issues with flooding and even more homes would make it difficult to cope.

“Whoever develops this land will build the largest houses they can to get the maximum amount of revenue back on their investment,” she told the committee.

“They will have little regard to the impact this will have on the community.

Keith Hutchinson on behalf of the applicants said the homes would “ not extend development into the open countryside, but merely extends a cul de sac off Chapel Lane already granted permission”.

Parish councillors Liz Houghton and Jill Rogers raised various points and claimed the site of the development contravenes guidelines.

The village had suffered with higher than expected levels of speculative development totalling over 93 approved homes. The current application for 19 would increase that to 112, a total increase of 33 per cent.

They reminded the committee of a public meeting held in May 2016 and attended by over 200 residents when there was “unprecedented support” for the parish council’s lead in supporting limited development of small-scale schemes of 5 – 7 dwellings.

At the same time the parish council opposed “excessive, disproportionate development that would threaten the character and infrastructure of the village”.

They rejected the planning officer’s claim as being a subjective opinion” that the 19 homes would enhance the vitality of Wicken.

They argued that the planning department appeared determined “to undermine this conservation village by failing to safeguard the character and essence of our community”.

Wicken has no school and its’ children are “strewn across five different local primary schools. The school bus only takes children to one school in Soham, the rest have to travel by private car or taxi.”

Wicken has no public transport apart from one bus service per week. Residents drive to work, to shop and to access medical services.

And they felt a further allocation of affordable housing was unnecessary and unwarranted and “a red herring”.

After a lengthy debate the plans were refused.