Hearing scrutinises Breckland plans

A planning blueprint which will shape the future of development in Breckland is set to be scrutinised by inspectors during a 10 session hearing which begins today.

A planning blueprint which will shape the future of development in Breckland is set to be scrutinised by inspectors during a 10-session hearing which began on Tuesday.

The council's Core Strategy will be examined by inspectors in lengthy public sessions over the next three weeks.

The document sets out Breckland's strategy for development up to 2026 and details the policies against which planning applications will be decided.

If approved it will form part of Breckland's Local Development Framework (LDF), a master plan which contains a series of weighty documents which together set out goals for everything from job creation to the building of new road and rail infrastructure and new homes.

David Spencer, principal planning policy officer at Breckland Council said: “The two government inspectors will be testing whether the planning strategy is justified.

“They will establish whether it is the right approach and report back in October.”

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Breckland Council agreed the Core Strategy in last November year after a six-month process of public consultation which included more than 80 meetings with parish and town councils and some 30 meetings at district level.

It includes broad brush proposals for the building of more than 19,000 homes over the next 18 years and planned substantial growth in the district's main towns.

Attleborough and Thetford could see 4,000 and 7,500 additional homes respectively with Swaffham, Watton and Dereham seeing far less.

It also includes a ban on new development within a 1,500 metre buffer zone of the Breckland Special Protection Area, a large chunk of land given European protection because it is one of only two habitats in the UK used by the rare stone curlew.

A key part of the document is an agreement that land will not be released for development until it can be proved there is sufficient infrastructure to cope with new homes and businesses. This will include looking at schools, healthcare, water treatment facilities, energy supply and roads.

Mr Spencer said that once the council has been given the thumbs up by the planning inspectors it could then start to decide what sites to take forward and detail exactly where the extra housing is to be built and what need to be put in place to allow this to happen.

He said: “Assuming that we are found sound we will then be preparing three documents.

“One will be the site specific proposals which will cover the rural parts of Breckland.

“The other two will be specific strategies for Attleborough and Thetford called Area Action Plans.”

All three documents are already in early draft form with comments having been sought from councils.

They will be consulted on again in early 2010.

To see all the documents relating to Breckland Council's LDF go to www.breckland.gov.uk/ldf.