Long Melford campaigners aiming to raise £30,000 to support fight at planning inquiry into 150-home proposal
Long Melford campaigners remain confident of defeating controversial housing proposals, but may need £30,000 to fight them, after the developer filed for a planning inquiry to be held.
Gladman Developments lodged an appeal with the Secretary of State for Housing regarding its application to build 150 homes on land off Station Road, known locally as Skylark Fields, which has faced heavy opposition from residents and Long Melford Parish Council.
Babergh District Council’s planning committee is set to make a decision on the application on December 12.
But Gladman appealed on the grounds that the authority failed to determine the application in the appropriate time period, setting the stage for the planning battle to continue even if the council rejects the plans.
It is understood the delay was because the council had to consider the outcomes of past legal challenges, as well as questions around Babergh’s restored five-year land supply for housing.
The Government’s Planning Inspectorate has confirmed the appeal will be decided by an inquiry, which is likely to take place next summer or autumn.
The Save Our Skylark Fields (SOS) community opposition group says it has expected an appeal all along, and raised more than £5,000 in 2018 in preparation for this eventuality.
However, the campaign stated it must raise between £30,000 and £35,000 to pay for expert witnesses and solicitors to represent the village at the inquiry.
Lisa Tipper, SOS chairman, told the Free Press: “This is par for the course for Gladman. It’s the reason why we have been fundraising.
“We think it’s partly to do with the fact that the Long Melford Neighbourhood Plan is ploughing ahead.
“We accept we need to have houses. But, as villagers, we want to have a say about what’s built in our village over the next 20 years and also make sure the infrastructure keeps up with this.
“The neighbourhood plan team has been very vocal and put forward a very strong objection that there is an absence of need for development on this site.”
Mrs Tipper explained she believes councillors will turn down the application next month, and she is optimistic the reasons to refuse permission will hold up at the inquiry next year.
“I am feeling confident,” she said. “As each day passes, I think we have got a great chance of winning this.
“I know people are willing us to win, because we feel very strongly that this is an inappropriate site for development for so many reasons.”
Many residents have objected to the 150-homes plan, citing the strains on local roads and services that such a population rise would bring, as well as potential damage to heritage and environmental assets.
Long Melford Parish Council argued there is a lack of need for such a development in light of the quantity of new homes approved in recent years or already under construction.
The village has completed the first draft of its neighbourhood plan, which is expected to go to a referendum in the summer, in the hope of giving residents a greater say, while reducing speculative applications.
Richard Kemp, parish, district and county councillor for Long Melford, said: “During in my 45 years with Babergh, I have never seen a planning application that has caused such strong opposition in Long Melford.
“This has been reflected by the street marches, letter writing and through the media.
“Outside of the village organisations, bodies dealing with heritage, nature and over-development have also expressed strong concerns.”
Members of the public have until December 27 to submit comments at acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk – using the appeal reference number 3214377.