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Plans to house 18 caravans on Outwell land turned down by West Norfolk Council aid frustration over ‘misleading’ video

A bid to use a piece of land to house eighteen caravans has been turned down amid fears it would “open the flood gates” to similar developments in the area.

The plans for land off Cottons Head, just outside Outwell, attracted criticism from a number of parties, including one local councillor who claimed a video included as part of the application was “misleading”.

The application was seeking permission for a retrospective change of land use to allow for the residential use of nine static caravans and nine touring caravans.

The application was seeking permission to house 18 caravans on land off Cottons Head, which was deemed too narrow by planning officers. Picture: Google Maps
The application was seeking permission to house 18 caravans on land off Cottons Head, which was deemed too narrow by planning officers. Picture: Google Maps

It was turned down by West Norfolk Council last week following a report from a planning officer which said Cottons Head is considered to be inadequate to serve the development because of its restricted width, lack of passing provision, lack of footway and restricted visibility at its junction.

The officer also said the caravans would “significantly detract from the appearance and character of this rural locality”.

The applicant suggested that local families would live at the site - 20 adults and 17 children - who have been homeless since 2016 with no alternative access to accommodation.

As part of the application, a video showing a HGV driving along a track used to access Cottons Head was submitted.

However, Cllr Chris Crofts, who represents the Emneth with Outwell Ward on the borough council, said this was misleading.

In a statement included in planning documents, he said: “It has just been bought to my attention by a concerned local resident that the agent has submitted a video of a lorry using Robbs Chase and (unbelievably!) commented that this is normal practice night and day.

“I've lived here all my life and I can assure you that this track has only been used by small farmers and smallholders and is totally unsuitable for large lorries of that nature.

“There has never been any businesses in that area in my lifetime. Robbs Chase is regularly used by leisure/dog walkers, and farm vehicles associated with agriculture only... not large lorries.

“Clearly the video was staged (or) managed in a desperate attempt to give the impression that this track is regularly used by such vehicles in order to get planning permission.

“I can assure you that is misleading and it isn't used in such a manner.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Colin Rose, who covers the Upwell and Delph Ward, said: “Not my ward but I can report it is close enough to cause concern of my constituents when it is reported that only three needs exist.

“It is feared that if this gets the go ahead it will open the flood gates to other sites nearby, therefore not justified nor appreciated locally.”

The site had been subjected to previous attempts to develop it for gypsy and traveller use – an application was refused in 2014 for a pitch, while a further application in 2017 was not determined.

During a site visit for the latest application, which was submitted in May last year, Norfolk County Council’s highways authority found that Cottons Head was not wide enough to be deemed acceptable for the development.

A statement said: “It is apparent from the application that in addition to cars being present on the site there would also be wider vehicles accessing Cottons Head such as the touring caravans.

“The Department for Transports Manual for Streets recommends that for such a mix of traffic a carriageway width of 4.8m should be provided to enable vehicles to pass safely.

“To the western end of Cottons Head the carriageway width was measured to be 3.7-3.8 meters of width, it then widens midway before the first proposed private access to 4.2m but then reduces down again to 3.8m.

“Adjacent to the narrower carriageway sections the verges to the sides are generally around 1.2m of width with a ditch found to the southern side.”

A planning statement added: “Whilst the agent has sought to address the concerns raised by the local highway authority, this weighs heavily against the proposed development of the site.”

The site is located just under one kilometre from Outwell Village Hall and the playing field.

The application was refused last Wednesday.

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