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Heartbreak for campaigners as plan for 150 homes wins approval

PUBLISHED: 16:16 01 April 2020 | UPDATED: 18:21 01 April 2020

Supporters of Save Our Skylark Fields march in 2019. Picture: RICHARD MICHETTE

Supporters of Save Our Skylark Fields march in 2019. Picture: RICHARD MICHETTE

Archant

A controversial scheme to build 150 homes on the edge of a Suffolk village has been approved on appeal.

Skylark Fields, off Station Road in Long Melford, on which developer Gladman wants to build 150 homes Picture: MARK LANGFORDSkylark Fields, off Station Road in Long Melford, on which developer Gladman wants to build 150 homes Picture: MARK LANGFORD

Developers Gladman has won its fight against an earlier refusal to allow the scheme in Skylark Field off Station Road in Long Melford.

The plan sparked fierce opposition from villagers, who formed the Save Our Skylark Fields (SOS) group.

They raised more than £30,000 to fund the legal battle, claiming the development would be unsuitable and the village did not need the new homes.

Babergh District Council’s planning committee unanimously voted to refuse the plans in December 2018 but Gladman appealed prior to the hearing on the grounds the council did not resolve the application in the timeframe required and a public inquiry was held last June.

Opposition by residents of Long Melford to the development plan for Skylark Fields was strong Picture: MARK LANGFORDOpposition by residents of Long Melford to the development plan for Skylark Fields was strong Picture: MARK LANGFORD

Planning inspector Kenneth Stone recommended the appeal be upheld following a five day hearing, and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has now ruled in favour.

In his report Mr Stone concluded: “The appeal scheme represents much needed sustainable development in a sustainable location at a sustainable settlement. The landscape and visual harm it would create is limited and acceptable. There would be no heritage harm. The development ought to be allowed to proceed in the public interest.”

MORE: Public inquiry starts into homes scheme

Lisa Tipper, chairman of Save Our Skylark Fields, said she was devastated: “What it means for the long term future of Long Melford I don’t know, but I am bitterly disappointed.

“We fought a long and hard campaign and raised a lot of money to fight this, but it would seem it’s another victory for big money and the developers.

“The timing of the announcement is also in particularly poor taste given that we are in a state of national emergency at the moment.”

Clive Arthey, Deputy Leader of Babergh District Council and Cabinet Member for Planning said: “I am very surprised at this decision.

“The Secretary of State has acknowledged that Babergh District Council can demonstrate it has over five years housing land supply, that our local policies are up to date and that there would be visual harm to Long Melford from developing this site.

“He has nonetheless considered the provision of new homes, to meet a need locally for market and affordable housing, should be given significant weight.

“This is a very disappointing outcome bearing in mind our Planning Committee unanimously voted to refuse the application in 2018.”

SOS said the development would damage the historical heart of Long Melford, an ancient village which includes Grade 1 listed Holy Trinity church, and Trinity Hospital, which dates back to the 16th century.

Both are part of the Long Melford conservation area, which Skylark Fields falls outside of.

Gladman denied the scheme would be visually obtrusive and said the council and SOS were “overstating the impact” of the scheme on the village.

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