Long Melford residents and parish councillors have voiced concerns that plans to convert a large agricultural site into an equestrian area will be a precursor to building hundreds of new homes.
Planning permission is being sought to transform land east of Station Road for keeping horses, including the construction of a stable building, which would provide accommodation for three horses.
But sceptical villagers have argued the sheer size of the site – totalling about 47 acres – and the fact the applicant, Hourigan Connolly, is a chartered town planning firm based in Manchester, suggests the plans could lay the groundwork to change the site for residential use at a later date.
Long Melford Parish Council, which previously expressed concerns about the level of proposed development in the village, will be discussing the application at a meeting in the United Reformed Church Hall tonight from 7pm.
District and parish councillor John Nunn and parish council planning committee chairman John Watts both said they had to look at the application as it appears, but they shared many of the same worries as residents.
Cllr Nunn said: “The fact that 47 acres of land has been surveyed and borehole sampled, for what, on the face of it, is merely a stable block, speaks for itself.
“The parish council’s planning committee have to look at the application before them, and cannot speculate on what or may not follow.
“However, on the face of it, taking in the agent’s track record, this would appear to be the first phase of an attempt to get a green field site, turned into a brown field site, which then leaves the door open to a large scale residential application.
“Long Melford, over the past few years, has had more than its fair share of large-scale residential development. The vast majority of these have not benefited local people, due to the excessive cost of these properties.”
Cllr Watts said there was no reason for the council to totally oppose the application as it stands.
But he explained they would recommend two conditions be attached if the plan is approved by Babergh District Council – that a maximum of five acres of the site be used for the stable development, and that the land revert back to agricultural use if it is not successful as an equestrian site.
Richard Kemp, parish, district and county councillor for Long Melford, added: “I think all of us in Long Melford should have concerns, should this site ever come forward for housing development, of the enormous impact that could have, on Long Melford and the open countryside.
“The 19 hectares in question stretches out to the Long Melford bypass, and is only a short distance from the edge of the Chilton Woods development.”
In Long Melford, more than 200 homes are currently either under construction, or have received planning permission to go ahead.
Developments under way include 77 new homes in Ropers Lane and another 44 houses at the former Fleetwood Caravans site in Hall Street.
Other applications have also won approval, including 71 new homes at a site off Bull Lane.