Battle over controversial housing development in Bures St Mary has 'damaged lives of residents', planning inquiry told
An inquiry into controversial homes in Bures St Mary has heard that years of acrimony around the development could have been avoided, if the developer had worked with the community.
During the first week of hearings, which will see the Planning Inspectorate determine the development’s future, villagers argued the negative impact of six homes built on Cuckoo Hill would be felt for years to come.
Babergh District Council green-lit three retrospective applications on four of the homes in 2019, having refused all six a year earlier, but placed enforcement notices on plots five and six, stating they breached the planning permission first granted in 2015.
Developer Stemar is appealing the enforcement orders in an effort to keep the entire development standing.
A site visit with the planning inspector and interested parties took place on Tuesday, when villagers sought to demonstrate their concerns about the harm caused to neighbouring properties and the Bures conservation area.
Bures St Mary Parish Council chairman Gill Jackson said Stemar had made “no attempt” to collaborate with the council after acquiring the site in 2017.
“Had they chosen to work with us, I think they would have a very different view of Bures and we would not be here today,” she told the inquiry. “Stemar has shown blatant disregard for the enforcement orders. Work has carried on through the Covid-19 period, when many builders chose to stop non-essential work.
“It’s clear to anyone who visits the site that plots five and six have a detrimental affect on neighbouring properties. There has been no attempt to enhance the setting.
“The sorry history of this planning debacle has damaged the lives of residents and any confidence in the planning authority’s ability to control developers who don’t build to plan.”
During the hearing, Kevin Leigh, representing Stemar, claimed the differences in the homes’ height were within an acceptable tolerance, adding that it was normal for builders to have a “reasonable latitude” to achieve a level development when on a sloped site, as is the case with Cuckoo Hill.
But Simon Bailey, Babergh’s senior planning enforcement officer, told the inquiry the increase in ground levels on the site, as well as the overall dimensions of the homes, took plots five and six outside of the original planning permission.
The inquiry is set to resume on Tuesday.