New homes plan for Melford stalls again due to fresh evidence

Long Melford Bull Lane development. Councillors John Watts chair of planning Long Melford PC, John Nunn parish and district councillor and Richard Kemp Parish district and county councillor Picture Mark Westley
Long Melford Bull Lane development. Councillors John Watts chair of planning Long Melford PC, John Nunn parish and district councillor and Richard Kemp Parish district and county councillor Picture Mark Westley

A decision on plans to build 71 homes in Long Melford has been postponed again – due to new evidence provided by the parish council.

Babergh District Council had been due to discuss the scheme in Bull Lane at a planning committee meeting yesterday.

The plans, including 25 affordable homes and £650,000 in community contributions, had been recommended for approval by case officer Gemma Pannell, having previously been recommended for refusal.

In a email sent to councillors, Linda Sheppard, senior governance support officer at Babergh, said: “Long Melford Parish Council has made further detailed submissions as to the treatment of relevant planning policy and considerations within the report, including the proper interpretation of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and matters of five-year housing land supply.

“It is considered appropriate to take legal advice as to the interpretation and weight to be attached to a number of those policy and consideration issues.

“It is considered that these matters constitute significant new information arising between the preparation of the report and its discussion by the planning committee.

“On this basis, the chairman of the committee, in consultation with the corporate manager for growth and sustainable planning, has decided in advance of the meeting to remove this item from the committee agenda for further investigation and evaluation.”

Parish and district councillor John Nunn said: “While we welcome the decision, we are shocked and disappointed that it took Babergh so long to pay any attention to the several rounds of evidence that the parish council has submitted over many months.

“The council has been using a very highly qualified and experienced planning consultant who lives in the village to advise it and Babergh has acted improperly in not bringing the parish council’s evidence to the attention of the planning committee, which would thereby have decided the application with much of the relevant information missing.”

With the district council failing to demonstrate to the Government that it can build enough homes over the next five years, the NPPF will now take precedence over its own local plan during planning decisions.

Richard Kemp, county councillor for the village, questioned how Babergh’s land supply could have been ‘lost overnight’, saying the NPPF would have an enormous impact on people in the district.

Mr Kemp added: “The village owes a debt of great gratitude to Ian MacDonald who has shown he has the finest expertise on planning in the area.”

Simon Bryan, development director of Hopkins Homes, said: “We are disappointed that the planning committee has postponed the hearing of our application for a second time, particularly as it is now recommended for approval.”