Intervention during planning inquiry into 150 homes proposal in Long Melford has 'put time on our side', says parish council
Key interventions before and during the inquiry into controversial housing plans for Long Melford have been lauded by the parish council, which believes time is now on its side ahead of the appeal decision.
The hearing into a rejected application for 150 new homes on land off Station Road concluded last week, with a decision expected next year from the Secretary of State, rather than the planning inspector, after the inquiry was called in.
At the full parish council meeting last Thursday evening, Lisa Tipper stated the unexpected call-in of the appeal means the council will have more time to advance and ratify its own neighbourhood plan, so it can be factored in when the final decision is made.
“What it has caused is we’ve been given some time,” she said at the United Reformed Church in Hall Street. “It means we’ve got time to progress the neighbourhood plan to the next stage.
“Also, the joint local plan will be going ahead and should be ratified by March of next year. When the Secretary of State comes to make their decision, they look at the current state of play, the policy and the numbers.”
It has also emerged that a week before the inquiry began, a letter was sent by the Member of Parliament for South Suffolk, James Cartlidge, to the inspector, urging them to uphold Babergh District Council’s original refusal.
Mr Cartlidge, who has a policy of not taking public positions on individual applications, previously faced criticism from Long Melford residents for not explicitly supporting the village’s Save Our Skylark Fields (SOS) campaign against the development.
But, in his letter, seen by the Free Press, the MP told the inspector he felt this was “an exceptional case”.
He cited the recovery of Babergh’s five-year housing land supply, and argued there should be “a presumption in favour of sustainable development”, claiming the application had all of the hallmarks of speculative development.
Mr Cartlidge said: “It seems hard to argue the disproportional nature of the proposition could be described as sustainable, given the parish is delivering its fair share of homes, the parish is near to delivering a neighbourhood plan that has done the hard work of site allocation, and the district is near to delivering its joint local plan.
“In these circumstances, the decision of the democratic authority should be respected, and not overturned in favour of a speculative application that would, in effect, take advantage of a previous lack of delivery that is no longer present.”
On Thursday, Long Melford councillors said they were pleasantly surprised by Mr Cartlidge’s intervention, and suggested it may have contributed to the Secretary of State calling the appeal in.
“It was a bit out of the blue, because, up until now, he had said he didn’t talk about any application,” added Cllr Tipper. “We have to take it as, hopefully, a good thing.
“It’s a waiting game now. We’ve done all we can. We probably won’t hear anything for about a year.”
The parish council also confirmed it is now hoping to submit its neighbourhood plan to Babergh District Council by September, with the goal of holding a village-wide referendum asking for ratification before the end of the year.