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South Norfolk and Diss Town Councils in opposition to Churchill retirement complex plan

Councillors in Diss will write to Whitehall to argue against planning approval for a retirement village, urging that “the future is the children and younger people in the town”.

Developer Churchill Retirement Living has lodged an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate after growing impatient of waiting for its application for 58 retirement flats and 15 cottages in a vacant patch of land near Park Road to be ruled upon by South Norfolk Council.

While both district and town council both objected to the plans, they were understood to have been waiting on key information before making a final recommendation.

The proposed location for the site is just off from the Thatchers Needle pub, in Park Road. Picture: Google. (50931933)
The proposed location for the site is just off from the Thatchers Needle pub, in Park Road. Picture: Google. (50931933)

Members of both councils will now write to the planning inspector, outlining their objections ahead of a public inquiry on November 9.

They are expected to cite a host of reasons as to why the plans should be refused, namely that the land – situated at the rear of the Thatchers Needle pub – could be put to better use.

During a planning committee meeting of Diss Town Council last Wednesday, council leader Simon Olander warned that Diss was becoming “heaven’s gate”, and that people wanted “leisure centres and retail centres”, not retirement complexes and care homes – of which there are already 13 in the town.

“I don’t want to work with them to build these houses as I don’t think they are in the right part of town,” he said. “That part of Diss should be seen as more than just care homes.

“That’s the last part of the [town] centre where we have got a chance to put something vibrant to pull people into Diss.

“We all know that part of town, close to the river, could have something fantastic rather than retirement bungalows.

“Diss is becoming heaven’s gate – the future is the children and the younger people in the town.

“[People] want things to do – they want to see leisure centres, retail centres.”

Diss mayor Eric Taylor, who chaired the committee meeting, claimed that the homes would be unaffordable for most people in Diss, while also citing logistical issues, such as drainage and accessibility, and that it would create insufficient levels of green space.

“The biggest no-no in my book is the lack of affordable housing,” he said. “They are well over the affordability of most people in Diss.

“Churchill thought four out of 10 would be sold to the people in the local area – the rest would be further afield.

“If that development went ahead, you would have people from Essex and the Midlands coming [to live in them].”

“They [also] have a 4.4 metre-wide access road – how would an emergency vehicle or a bin lorry be able to access a site like that?

“I hate to think what a fire engine would do to get around that corner.”

Churchill had initially submitted a planning application in February, prompting the town council to submit a formal objection to the planning authority.

A second application was submitted early last month, with a number of slight changes.

“The application is basically the same as the first one, with a few minor tweaks,” explained Cllr Taylor.

“Its very similar in all other aspects: in terms of numbers and the layout of the site.”

The district council has insisted that the delay in examining the first application was not due to a previous backlog of more than 200 planning applications across south Norfolk and its neighbour, Broadland.

After the number of outstanding applications was revealed at a meeting of Broadland District Council in July, the authority stated all submissions had been processed.

A Churchill spokesman said the location is perfect for much-needed retirement homes and will help improve the health and wellbeing of people living there, while creating jobs, high street spend and boosting the housing market.

“Unfortunately, our initial planning application has been in the planning system for several months and, given the time taken to appeal schemes, it was commercially necessary for us to lodge an appeal for non-determination on this first application,” said the spokesman.

“That said, we have also submitted a second application and remain in positive dialogue with the local planning authority.

“We hope to reach a positive conclusion on the second application and avoid the need for an appeal that would incur further delay and costs for all parties.”

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