'David can take on Goliath' - Campaigners' joy as housing scheme rejected
PUBLISHED: 15:32 13 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:51 13 August 2019
Residents are celebrating after controversial plans to build more than 100 homes on the edge of Stowmarket were rejected by a public inquiry.
Developers Gladman had appealed against an earlier decision by Mid Suffolk District Council (MSDC) to refuse permission to build up to 160 houses on Mill Mount Field, off Poplar Hill in Combs.
Gladman claimed the scheme would provide much-needed new homes for the district, but locals led by the Save Mill Mount Field (SMMF) group said it would destroy views across a beautiful valley containing Grade 1 listed St Mary's church and Combs Wood.
They also said the local road network, schools and health services would not be able to cope with the demands placed on it by the development.
Following an inquiry heard in Stowmarket, planning inspector Paul Clark ruled that the application did meet guidelines over traffic and infrastructure.
It would also contribute towards housing requirements for MSDC, although it was not essential in order for the authority to meet its five-year Housing Land Supply requirement.
However he said the scheme would have an adverse impact on the landscape.
In his appeal decision report, he said: "The appeal proposal would compromise the appreciation of sufficiently impressive examples of other characteristic features of the landscape as to cause an unacceptable effect on the landscape character and appearance of the area."
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The value of the site in forming a separation between Stowmarket and Combs was also a factor to be taken into account, he said.
Des Shelley, the chairman of the Save Mill Mount Field (SMMF) group, said campaigners were "elated".
"I am just glad that we may have given hope to communities who are fighting other schemes by Gladman in Suffolk and shown that David can take on Goliath," she said.
"We need to see what Gladman are going to do next, they may yet appeal against the the decision to the High Court.
"But for now it is great to know that the chairman heard both sides of the argument and found in our favour.
"I think the strength of feeling from people who were so opposed to the scheme made him realise just how passionately the community felt about it."
Local Green Party councillors also welcomed the decision.
Miles Row, who represents Combs Ford on Stowmarket Town Council, said: "It is good that the connection to the landscape has been preserved.
"The views across to the ancient woodland and church are central to the character of this area of Stowmarket and give a much-needed connection to its environment and history."
John Matthissen, who's MSDC ward covers Combs, added: "It is reassuring that the reasons given by the Planning Inspector relate particularly to the views across the valley rather than the landscape character, as these reasons should apply equally to any subsequent appeal on the application for 138 homes on the same site, which Mid Suffolk's Planning Committee also refused recently."