Controversial homes bid gets the nod again

Michael Evans is angry about the housing in Cornard approved by the council ANL-150906-165731009
Michael Evans is angry about the housing in Cornard approved by the council ANL-150906-165731009

Councillors have again approved plans for 166 new homes near the historic Abbas Hall in Great Cornard.

It comes after the Cornard Tye Residents’ Association mounted a legal challenge against the decision of Babergh District Council’s planning committee in May to approve the homes.

Peter Beer, chairman of Babergh’s planning committee said: “It is always extremely difficult trying to balance the views of local people with the needs and future sustainability of our district.

“However, having debated this application and taken into account the issues raised in the reports before us today, members decided to grant planning permission as the public benefits of the scheme outweighed the less than substantial harm to Abbas Hall.”

Michael Evans, chairman of the residents’ association, had sent a pre-action protocol letter for judicial review to the council claiming the decision to approve the homes was based on a flawed planning report.

He said the councillors had approved the new homes based on a report which was “full of legal and factual flaws”.

As a result of the residents’ association’s letter, the council agreed to reconsider the application by Persimmon Homes, saying it was good practice for members to reconsider it in light of the legal challenge.

Planners, nevertheless, recommended approval for the homes in a report to the committee meeting which took place on Wednesday.

Persimmon Homes had a previous application for the same site with 170 homes unanimously refused in 2013, and this decision was upheld at appeal.

Its revised application was amended to address the planning inspector’s concerns. Of the 166 new homes it includes 58 affordable flats and bungalows on 31 acres of land east of Carsons Drive close to Abbas Hall, a Grade I listed building built around 1290.

The hall has a cultural association with Thomas Gainsborough as the artist’s work, Cornard Wood and Mr and Mrs Andrews, are said to have been painted in the vicinity of the historic building and grounds.

In a letter to the council commenting on the council’s new report Mr Evans said: “The development is a re-submission and essentially the same as the 170 house development which officers recommended for refusal, and was rejected unanimously by the committee.

“That was in spite of being told that the site was established in the local plan and the principle of development was confirmed.

“The status of this development is now very weak and recent Appeal Court cases make approval very difficult.”

He added: “Alternative sites should have been explored as this site was originally rejected as unsuitable for the local plan and only reinstated afterwards using some questionable procedures.”

Councillors were told that the pre-action protocol letter alleged a number of failures. These included failing to properly respond to a Freedom of Information request on the principle of the development, failing to be consistent with national planning policies, and to explore alternative strategies.

But in a report to the committee, planners said they had addressed the issues after having taken legal advice on the points raised.

The council said: “These alleged failings have been carefully considered but do not change the recommendation. The recommendation to approve the applications is unchanged.”