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Green Party members ask 'why did we even bother with a Neighbourhood Plan?' after Thurston development is approved





Council leaders have been criticised for ‘brushing aside’ planning guidelines to pass a 210-home development in a village.

Last week, Mid Suffolk District Council approved a Gladman Developments project, which will also see a 420-place primary school built on land east of Ixworth Road in Thurston .

Despite the plan being contrary to guidelines put forward in the Neighbourhood Plan for the village, Conservative-led authority approved the plan by 10 votes to four.

Thurston village sign
Thurston village sign

Green Party opponents have expressed frustration at the hours ‘wasted’ in producing the Neighbourhood Plan, a Government-approved blueprint for constructing in the area, for its guidance to not be followed. Green Party planning lead Councillor Andrew Stringer said 95 per cent of residents consulted voted in support of the plan.

He said: “We are seeing the demise of Neighbourhood Plans as a respected part of the decision-making process.

“(It has become) a far cry from the rhetoric (we were promised) about giving control of development to local communities.”

Green Party councillor Andrew Stringer
Green Party councillor Andrew Stringer

The project had previously been before Mid Suffolk’s planning committee in January, but was refused at that time.

Committee chairman Matthew Hicks said the application had ‘further community benefits’ added when it was brought back to the committee for re-examination this month.

But Cllr Stringer said the plan should still have been refused.

He added: “In this case, the development was made more attractive thanks to improvements gained after earlier committee resistance to the scheme.

“Council planners and members need to be more robust in protecting local communities by refusing poor development which lacks infrastructure or is in the wrong place.”

"They may well be wondering why they have bothered.”

Party colleague Cllr Andrew Mellen said in the meeting: “Neighbourhood Plan volunteers, who have put in many hours of work to produce these plans, may well be wondering why they have bothered.”

Cllr Hicks acknowledged the ‘concerns’ raised about the application.

He said after the decision: “This was a difficult decision on an application which has addressed concerns previously raised in January to offer further community benefits.

“After a lengthy debate the majority voted in favour of approving outline planning permission.”

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