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‘Stop working against residents’ interests’, King’s Lynn Civic Society warns councillors

todayApril 22, 2021 2

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A Lynn heritage group has accused councillors of failing to act in the town’s interests by approving the contentious Parkway housing scheme.

Officials from the King’s Lynn Civic Society say the rules which allow councils to reach decisions on their own planning applications should be reviewed.

But West Norfolk Council officials have rejected suggestions that the proposal was treated any differently because the authority itself was the applicant.

GV Picture of Land which is being Proposed for Possible New Housing Development for the Gaywood Area...Land between King's Lynn Academy Site off Queen Mary Road/Parkway Gaywood and Howard Junior School. (45744555)
GV Picture of Land which is being Proposed for Possible New Housing Development for the Gaywood Area…Land between King’s Lynn Academy Site off Queen Mary Road/Parkway Gaywood and Howard Junior School. (45744555)

The Civic Society was one of many groups to oppose the Parkway scheme and has argued for the number of homes due for construction there to be roughly halved, in order to protect vital habitats and green space.

The group has now issued an open letter describing the decision to approve the scheme – subject to the completion of legal agreements – as “disappointing.”

And it has also urged councillors to question whether they have a clear vision for the town’s future.

Kings Lynn Civic Society chairman Alison Gifford.
Kings Lynn Civic Society chairman Alison Gifford.

The society’s chairman, Alison Gifford, wrote: “We hope it is not too late to ask for this planning decision to be reconsidered and that councillors put the wishes of residents before loyalty to any particular political group.

“There are very challenging times ahead and councillors should be working for the interests of the residents of King’s Lynn and not against them.”

Among the society’s concerns is the status of the borough council as both the applicant and the planning authority for the Parkway scheme.

Councils are allowed to reach decisions on applications they have submitted.

And the West Norfolk planning committee did reject the authority’s proposal to build flats on the Southend Road car park in Hunstanton last December, before deferring a decision on revised proposals earlier this month.

But concerns have been raised about the authority’s handling of the Parkway scheme.

And Ms Gifford wrote:”It cannot be right that the Council finds itself as landowner, developer and planning authority giving itself consent for a scheme, partly on unallocated land, and at the expense of a large area of green infrastructure within the town, when thousands of residents have registered their objections.

“It seems completely implausible that a private developer would have been granted this consent.”

In response, a borough council spokesman said: “If an application had been submitted by a private developer, it would have been treated in exactly the same way. To suggest otherwise is simply untrue.”

But the society’s secretary, Anna Gunn, said: “We think the issue of whether a third party should be involved to review a planning process when a planning authority is also effectively the developer should be further considered.”

The open letter insisted the society was not automatically opposed either to building new homes or increasing Lynn’s population.

But Ms Gifford warned councillors risked not being taken seriously by claiming the Parkway proposal would lead to “much better conditions for flora and fauna.”

Peter Gidney, the authority’s cabinet member for project delivery, made that argument when he spoke in favour of the development at last Thursday’s planning meeting.

She added: “Steadily increasing the population and the density of residential areas must be balanced with the appropriate delivery of amenities, infrastructure, employment and all the other elements that provide for quality of life.

“Since the adoption of the Core Strategy in 2011, we have continually urged the Council to deliver clear strategic documents outlining sustainable proposals for transport, green space provision, and amenities. They have not materialised.”

The Civic Society’s intervention comes after environmental campaigners revealed they are considering a legal challenge among options for continuing to fight the scheme.

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