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Council Vice-Chair Resigns

The vice chair of Hethersett Parish Council and chair of the council's planning committee has resigned following the decision to grant permission for 1,196 new homes in Hethersett. Gary Wyatt said that he has been frustrated at the lack of notice taken of local opinion and opposition to the plans.

He outlined the reasons for his decision in an e-mail to this web site and we reproduce this in full below:

"I have resigned from Hethersett Parish Council following South Norfolk District Council Development Management Committee's decision  to grant planning permission for the so-called Hethersett North development of 1196 houses. A separate application for 150 houses on an adjacent site is now likely to go through 'on the nod' making a total of some 1350. This will add more than 50% to the size of the existing village, totally overwhelm the whole infrastructure and it will completely lose its character.

"Our community spirit is in danger of being destroyed"

I would stress
that I have no quarrel with Hethersett Parish Council or any of the councillors.

However, as a result of the above decision, I have become frustrated with the role of parish councils in general. For example, is there any point to this level of local government when its wishes can be so easily overridden and ignored? Especially when we are also up against the might of the professional planners, lawyers etc employed at great expense by developers to back their applications.

At the meeting, myself and Fred Watkins (chair of the full parish council) objected to the application in the strongest possible terms, given the very limited time allocated to us, as did the pressure group called 'Hethersett Our Way' and our local district councillor, Leslie Dale. Our arguments were only vaguely acknowledged by the committee, most of whom did not seem to appreciate the overwhelming effect this development will have on our existing residents.

Clearly, it is more important to SNDC to meet the housing targets imposed by the Joint Core Strategy than to have concern about those of us who already live here. It seems to me that, despite the government's "localism" policy, parish councils have no influence or powers when it comes to the really big, important decisions that affect us. OK, we can install litter bins, give grants to playing fields and village halls, but when it comes to things that drastically affect our quality of life, we are impotent. As you can imagine, we were really pleased to receive our community award, but our community spirit is in danger of being destroyed.

"A gross waste of public money"

I have a couple of specific concerns about the application just granted. The first is that one area on the eastern side of the site (the developer's phase 2) is outside the SNDC's own local plan "site specific" preferred locations for development in Hethersett which established the preferred development boundary (as published September 2012). These preferred sites were drawn up by SNDC over a long period of time with extensive public consultation and no doubt a lot of council officer time; the fact that this policy has been breached at the very first test
, seems to make the whole exercise meaningless and a gross waste of public money. Further, it sets a precedent for applications throughout South Norfolk and I can envisage developers rubbing their hands in glee at this decision as they can now safely ignore the council's preferred sites when putting in applications.

Second, the same phase of the Hethersett plan also intrudes into the 'strategic gap' between Hethersett and Cringleford. This gap is under review currently, and the planning permission is granted subject to a condition that no development takes place in the area in question until the gap review is completed. However, a key part of the development is a new link road through that area, to connect to Hethersett Lane. I have asked what would happen to that link road if the strategic gap was upheld in the review but the SNDC planners did not give an answer – this link is essential to take traffic away from 'old' Hethersett and it would be disastrous if it wasn't built.

Other comments on the decision have included the following:

James Utting of Hethersett Our Way, which has been campaigning against the development:

“We have consulted our professional planning consultant to see what options are available – we will maintain as much pressure against this inappropriate development as we are able,” he said.

“The application is wrong for many other reasons, but possibly our over-riding concern is that residents voices have been ignored and elected councillors, when provided with a good opportunity and strong grounds to stem the flow of unwelcome and unnecessary expansion, have favoured the development lobby – not the people they are there to represent.”

Hethersett Our Way Web Site

"This is obviously extremely disappointing news as it will no doubt affect all of us in our lovely village as we deal with increased traffic and demand on our facilities. The lack of proactive information from South Norfolk Council has been frustrating."

Messages from Residents on Facebook

"Sad day for Hethersett... South Norfolk Council passed the planning application for new homes in Hethersett. Goodbye Hethersett Village."

"Infrastructure first!! ROADS, CYCLE PATHS, BUSES, SCHOOLS, SURGERIES, LIBRARIES, PARKS, SHOPS AND THEN HOUSES! And that doesn't even take into account what needs to drive it all - JOBS! I despair."