King's Lynn Planning Debacle
Political comment by Richard Bird
Around 2010 KL&WNBC were asked by the National Government of the day to put forward a plan to build lots of houses within the Boro’, and to make it sweet the Government offered a bonus in money to the Boro’ for every house and home. The Boro’ thought this a great idea, extra money for doing what they were supposed to do anyway. A local plan was developed, outlining where those homes might go and landowners queued up to offer their freehold land as potential development sites that could be worth up to 10 times its farmland value. With me so far?
Once those sites had been assessed by the Boro’s officers, potential developers were approached and the officers at KL&WNBC worked up plans to make the sites as amenable as possible for the existing and the potential new folks to live there. Parks, shopping facilities, open spaces, schools etc.
The offering, as a package, was then made ready. By this time hundreds of hours and much money had been spent and put into the proposals by both the officers at the Boro’, and the developers. You will note perhaps the lack of local consultation; who cares about the locals anyway?
The plan then goes public and this is where the SH1T hits the fan, the locals don’t like or want it and I now refer to an article I wrote in the Town and Around magazine in April 2019, having attended the public meeting. (See below in italics)
Proposals to create over 600 homes on the crucial junction of the A149 and near the A148 were turned down by the King’s Lynn Planning Committee on Tuesday 13th March.
What appeared to be well over 200 members of the public filled the Guildhall in King’s Lynn and at the end of the meeting the chairperson Vivienne Spikings recommended the committee refuse the application and the vote from the committee members was unanimous with all 14 members voting to refuse.
Emotional speakers argued the case for refusal included our local MP Sir Henry Bellingham, who argued by way of a letter that "I can honestly say that during my 32 years as an MP I have never come across a planning application which is so unpopular". He went on to state that if it goes ahead, the traffic consequences for Grimston Road and Knights Hill will be quite horrendous.
John Taylor, speaking for Castle Rising Parish Council said: "The roads are gridlocked already, there is no capacity for extra vehicles. Any increase in motorised traffic can only make this dire situation worse."
John Marrow highlighted poor air quality, saying the development could bring an extra 5,000 vehicle movements a day to the roads around the proposed development.
Soon to be retiring from the Borough Council, Nick Daubney the Current Mayor and Former Council Leader when the original plans were forwarded, who currently Lives in the Woottons, reminded councillors that they were elected by the people and should follow their wishes, he commented on the shortage of medical facilities including general practice doctors.
Lord Howard of Castle Rising declared a financial interest while warning all that there was "a very substantial opposition" over the impact the development would have on all traffic and the historic landscape.
David Goddard, from South Wootton, declared a financial interest as a land owner in the region, he stated that the development would cause gridlock from King’s Lynn centre to the A149 and on to Hunstanton.
The majority of speakers were opposed to the proposal and highlighted that the housebuilders Camland Development’s 600 homes were to be added to the already proposed Hopkins and Moore 28 homes, Bowbridge 125 homes and Larkfleet 450 homes; making a total of 1230 new homes including the ‘affordable element’ all in the close proximity and creating huge traffic problems around the A149.
The developers who could appeal the judgement were arguing the following points:
Paul Belton from Camland development said: "This site has been positively identified by this Boro' Council as a preferred location of growth; we would not have spent time and money on it, if this was not the case.”
Alan Gomm, a senior planning officer for the Boro' council said : "The principle of a major development at this location was accepted and included in the Local Plan published in 2011.”
Geoff Hall, the Boro' Council’s Director of Planning warned that if the planning committee councillors turned down this application and the developer appealed, they would need to be able to substantiate their reasons or risk having costs imposed against the Boro' Council.
So the first battle is won, now the real challenge starts. If the developing builder appeals, and they have stated that their applications have been costly in terms of time and money, that they have complied with all the conditions outlined by the Boro's officers, and that the application is genuine and has up to now had no real objection, the question might be, why had they been led to believe that planning permission would be approved?
The Boro' council’s senior officers have stated that all conditions have been complied with including NCC Highways, English Nature, flooding issues and others. The question then is, what further argument can be raised to stop the development? Clearly the ones to date will not necessarily impress the Appeals Board. If they don’t the Appeals Board could fine the Boro' Council. That could, in turn, have the effect of all forfeiting many if not all the proposed benefits on offer from the builders. The real battle is now being considered, the questions are: who will fund the locals at the appeals board and who will pay for the best professional representation against the developer? It would appear that it will not be the Boro' Council.
The moral of this story is don’t leave it to the last moment to object; clearly this matter, that started in 2011, would have been better fought sooner than now.
Current story continues.....
Camfield have appealed and the argument that formed the local residents’ objection is now to be disallowed: traffic volumes, clean air and potential gridlock. Experience tells me that the Boro’ has now alienated the developer, due to them needing to appeal and that they will claim some, if not all, of their appeal expenses and costs, furthermore the developer could cut back on their benefit package that was incorporated in this development like the parks, play areas etc listed above.
It’s hard to make a sensible ending to this, especially as the same members of KL&WNBC Cabinet that approved the original 2011 Local Plan were in some cases the same cabinet members who turned down the Planning Permission at the meeting in March.
This has cost the ratepayer a pretty penny and the chances are there will be much more cost as time goes on.
Now the governing party has been the same throughout these years, and although many of the original party members have now ceased to be members either by retirement, loss of ward seat or simply standing down from a senior position, this is a comprehensive policy decision, to raise monies for this KL&WNBC regardless of the cost or consequences to the local people, who in many cases would, up to now only have voted for the same party.
At the moment the blame for this debacle is being put on new members when in reality the plan was hatched by the previous administration.