Safety fears derail homes plan

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Long Melford residents were celebrating this week after plans for 51 homes were turned down on the grounds of pedestrian safety.

David Wilson Homes wanted to build on the former Fleetwood Caravans site near Hall Street, with 18 of the homes designated for affordable housing.

But councillors at Babergh District Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of refusal after worries the development would have a detrimental affect on highway safety.

In a meeting which lasted nearly two hours, councillors eventually decided to go against their officers’ own recommendation for approval – including a report prepared for them by an independent highways specialist.

Councillors were warned by monitoring officer Kathryn Saward that they could risk “losing honour” if a subsequent appeal went ahead.

Suffolk County Council officials also attended the meeting to confirm it would never be able to adopt the estate’s roads, which would be looked after by a private management company.

More than 50 members of the public crowded into the council chamber to listen to the debate.

Helen Spear, from Long Melford Parish Council, said: “There is a strong feeling in the village that the whole exercise is motivated by greed.

“We are not against new houses in principle but it is the sheer number that the infrastructure cannot cope with. The world-famous Hall Street wiouldchange beyond recognition.”

Ward councillor Richard Kemp was given a round of applause after he spoke out against the plans.

“We have a petition signed by 800 people and 300 individual letters of protest from baronets to bar tenders,” he said. “No-one in Long Melford is against development – we just want a developer that listens to the people. This is an absolute travesty as far as I am concerned.”

Peter Biggs, planning manager for David Wilson Homes, said the design of the scheme had been carefully thought-out.

“It has been thoroughly tested in terms of road safety and found to be sound,” he said. “This was a busy employment site previously, with vehicles coming and going. There is no justifiable planning reason to reject this application.”

Babergh planning officer Elizabeth Truscott said the plan was for pedestrians and vehicles to share a six-metre wide access road – running alongside the Cock and Bell pub – with a different colour path to designate where people would walk.

Committee chairman Peter Beer said: “I personally don’t think this access is acceptable. I think it’s important we listen to the people.”

After the meeting, David Watts, from Fleetwood Caravan Neighbourhood Group, said: “We are pleased the council saw sense. Problems have been obvious to the people of Long Melford right from the start.”