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Homes plan for priory site

PUBLISHED: 09:40 23 April 2009 | UPDATED: 21:31 07 July 2010

Campaigners hoping to save a former Cluniac priory in Norfolk from being developed were dealt a blow after plans for homes on the site were given the green light.

Campaigners hoping to save a former Cluniac priory in Norfolk from being developed were dealt a blow after plans for homes on the site were given the green light.

H G Developments has been told it can build 26 homes - 15 new and 11 in converted buildings - on the medieval Abbey Farm Barns site, off Monksgate in Thetford, despite a dossier of objections from national and local heritage bodies.

Breckland Council's development control committee, which met on Monday, decided it was the best option for the future of the unique site, partially a scheduled monument, while no other viable alternatives were available.

But, despite the blow, the leading campaigners against H G's plans were told to submit a planning application for their own plans, for a visitor centre, holiday homes, commercial offices and cycle hire in the barns, some of which are listed.

It was thought that in the current economic climate there could be a “window of opportunity” for a non-residential scheme for the site.

It is the latest twist to the long-running saga of the barns, which were sold to H G Developments in 2002 by Breckland Council, who had been unable to find another use for the buildings.

The site has been redundant since the 1980s, when the council ceased using it as a depot.

H G got planning permission for the same scheme last year, and put the site up for sale for £1.6m, but that scheme has since been taken to judicial review.

Nick Moys, principal planning officer at Breckland, said the council's main concern was finding the most viable option which would keep the buildings in good condition and questioned how realistic the society's scheme was.

Although it was said that H G Developments' scheme was “marginally viable” financially, he said: “The conclusion is there isn't another viable alternative use currently at a stage we can give sufficient weight to.”

After the meeting Stuart Wright, chairman of Thetford Society, said: “We are very disappointed it has been approved again.

“The first time they immediately put it up for sale. We are still committed to exploring our proposal for the site.

“We will look at drawing up a planning application and talking to the owner of the site.”

He also said they would seek to get the listed building planning application, which has to be agreed by the secretary of state, brought to a public inquiry and look at funding sources for their project.

Ed Chambers, clerk of Thetford Town Council, said they were already working with English Heritage to manage the main former priory ruins, on a separate nearby site, and that they would be meeting next month.

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