Key ruling in long-running village hall bid

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Plans to build a new village hall mothballed since the start of 2012 are to be revived following a key planning ruling.

The Open Spaces Society had challenged Breckland Council’s decision to hand Kenninghall Memorial Hall Committee planning permission that enabled construction work on land featuring an ancient byway.

But the Planning Inspectorate ruled last month that the council’s decision to give the bid the green light was justified.

As a result, the committee is now pursuing plans formed early last year with developer Matthew Newbury, in which in return for building a £500,000 multi-function community hall on a section of land off School Close at no cost to the committee, he gets to construct 12 homes on land occupied by the current, dilapidated hall off School Close, which incorporates the byway.

Stephen Gordon, of the committee, said: “This is a breakthrough, as we can now get the restricted byway status lifted.

“It has been a frustrating process, but we’re happy now that we can get off the ground. We have a meeting next week.”

Kate Ashbrook, Open Spaces Society general secretary, said: “We are disappointed at the decision to divert part of this ancient, quiet byway onto an inferior route which walkers, riders and cyclists must share with vehicles. We feel badly let down by Breckland Council, which gave planning permission for housing without taking account of the public highway. The council should have consulted us then so that we could have come to an agreement.”

Despite the delay, Mr Newbury said he remains “very committed” to the scheme: “I understand why people want to protect ancient byways. But this path has been impassable for years, and what we are doing in exchange includes a space for use as a village green,” he added.