The inquiry into the Rural Area South part of St Edmundsbury Council’s Vision 2031 planning document was told that building up to 150 homes on the edge of Clare would not be the right thing to do.
The construction of between 130 and 150 homes on land at Poslingford Corner was one of two schemes not already included in the current planning document that came under discussion at the inquiry when it took place on Tuesday (4) at Days Inn hotel in Haverhill.
With 60 new homes already under construction on land east of The Granary the proposed development at Poslingford Corner plus schemes for 64 homes next to Stour Valley Community School in Cavendish Road and 75 dwellings in Back Field, off Nethergate Street all came under scrutiny.
Planning inspector Roger Clews, who has been appointed by the Government to examine whether the Vision 2031 is ‘fit for purpose’ and ‘sound in principle’ asked Brian Flynn, representing January’s, why he should consider the proposed Cavendish Road and Poslingford Corner developments.
Mr Flynn said: “There are no constraints to the site and there is an affordable housing need.”
His response was questioned by borough council planning officer, Anne-Marie Howell, who said no evidence of landscaping had been produced to justify 130 to 150 homes when the council would like to see no more than 140 on the site.
She added: “The council recognises that this isn’t the direction we would like Clare to see Clare grow in, in terms of long term growth.
“We think there are better places in the village for developments.”
Mrs Howell’s views wee supported by Clare Town Council chairman, Cllr Keith Haisman, who said: “Not only is it right on the periphery but the access coming out of the existing small industrial estate is dangerous.
“That whole area, that corner, is very dangerous.”
Should all four housing developments flagged up at the inquiry go ahead it would see as many as 349 homes built in Clare over the next 17 years, which raised further questions from Mrs Howell.
She said: “It could be 750 people more in Clare over the planning period.
“That’s a higher rate of growth than proposed in Bury St Edmunds.”
She went on to say: “We don’t want to overload a village that has constraints and planning issues.
“What we don’t want to do now in this plan is undermine the capacity in this village.”
Among the allocations included in the plan’s proposals was for half a hectare of land in Chilton Street to be available for development as an employment site.
Cllr Haisman expressed his concerns about the proposal, saying: “I see no need for it. On Bridewell Street there is already an industrial site which has vacant units.
“There is no demand and we are not looking for light industrial units in Clare.”
His view was supported by Adam Halford, who was representing the developer Charles Church.
Mr Halford said: “We don’t feel it’s going to meet the needs of Clare. It’s an out of town location.
“It is disconnected from the town and over 800 metres from the centre of Clare, so not the kind of location that people are going to walk to from the centre of the town.”
The need to preserve the character of Clare and protect its heritage and history was also emphasised by Clare Society member, Bridgett Burgess.
She said: “The atmosphere in our town is terrific. If we are going to swamp it with too many houses I think it should be gently increased.
“I think it‘s terribly important that the planning is sympathetic to the atmosphere of the whole town.”
A long debate was also held over proposals to build 75 homes in Back Field, although Mr Halford told the inquiry that figure had now been revised to between 50 and 60 houses.
English Heritage representative David Eves raised fears over the impact of the development, which would include a public car park, on the conservation area - in which it falls.
In response, Cllr Haisman said: “This is the only site that meets the Vision 2031 criteria of sustainability.
“This is about creating the heritage of tomorrow in a very sustainable way while damaging as little as possible.”