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Breckland Reneges on Land Sale

by Webmaster - 18:56 on 23 June 2010

The area of land adjacent to the Caston Telephone exchange, together with the green area in front of Coronation Terrace, was agreed to be given by Breckland Council to the Caston Parish Council as a local amenity.

Caston Parish Council was to take responsibility for this area and were to pay for the legal costs involved in the land transfer. Caston Parish Council applied to Awards for All and were given a grant to cover these legal costs which was subsequently granted. The deal was agreed in 2009 and the matter was being progressed by the council's legal team and Caston Parish Council's solicitor. Legal costs have been incurred by both parties.

Earlier this year Breckland Council indicated that they were to change their mind on this grant of land adjacent to the exchange and would seek planning permission for a pair of semi-detached houses to be built on the area but would still continue to grant the remainder of the land to Caston Parish.

Caston Parish Council have strongly protested this change of policy by Breckland Council for several reasons. Clearly the building of houses on this area of land would mean a loss of the established trees on the site and would be detrimental to the appearance of the area, not to mention the loss of a playing area currently used by local children.

The Chief Executive of Breckland Council has recently written to Caston Parish Council advising them that Breckland will continue to pursue building permission for the site, despite the parish's protest, as they wish to sell it for the building of houses in order to raise revenue for Breckland Council. They have now said that only in the event that planning consent cannot be secured would they reconsider the decision to transfer the land to the parish

There are many who feel that this decision is to the detriment of our village and wish to see this building plan rejected.

If anyone wants further information they can see the record of proceedings in the Caston Parish Council Minutes available on the web ( http://www.castonparishcouncil.co.uk/minutesagendas.asp ) or can contact the Parish Clerk for more information that is in the public domain.  Click this link diary of events to read the whole issue as it happened.

If you have a view on this there are two actions you can take.  Please enter your thoughts right here on this page so others can see them and then write to Breckland's Planning Officer to make your views known.  If you are in favour then the scheme will almost certainly go through.  If you are against the scheme and do nothing then the scheme will almost certainly go through.  If you are against the scheme you need to make your views known.

Comment from Concerned resident at 11:36 on 26 June 2010.
I feel strongly that this is an outrageous decision by Breckland Council, and is part of an 'amenity grab' - with the potential loss of the use of this land by local children. Another point is how is this going to be presented at the development control committee - when the council itself wishes to seek planning permission for semi-detached houses on the site? I would be in favour of contacting the Look East news desk and the EDP in order to fight this decision. It is a story that would probably get considerable traction in the media, and a media approach is probably the best way to stop this loss of amenity. If there is strong opinion against this decision by Breckland Council, then people need to make their voices heard and we need to organise a proper media campaign. So I'd encourage people to say what they think on this blog.
Comment from Malcolm Valentine at 08:18 on 06 July 2010.
That piece of beautifully shaded land along with its neighbour is one of two plots where most of the local children and their friends congregate and play. It is a safe area as those approaching the village can see them, their bikes, footballs and other toys.
To desecrate it for a few pieces of silver is not worthy of our local council.
Comment from Helen Maxwell at 11:20 on 14 July 2010.
Regarding the sudden change by Breckland Council to its decision to grant Caston Parish Council two small pieces of green space in the village is shameless.

It is even more shameless if it feels that it can retract on its initial agreement and then push building permission through its own development control committee! Had the land belonged to anyone else I doubt that this permission would be granted.

This area can be seen as an open green space on entering the village and has been used for some time now by local children to play on. The area also includes three established trees which would be lost if the proposed building goes ahead.

We don’t want houses crammed onto this small green area - leaving aesthetics aside, practical issues such as parking in Coronation Terrace and vehicle access to the telephone exchange will become a nightmare! Get a grip Breckland - there are many other ways that you can make money other than retracting on legal agreements and spoiling small open spaces in local villages!
Comment from Steve Farmbrough at 15:05 on 14 July 2010.
I cannot believe Breckland are even considering building 2 properties on this piece of land. If anyone else was to buy it and apply for planning, they would throw it out at the first stage. If their "planners" let this one through, they can call themselves anything but "planners". Not impressed at all.
Comment from Pat Butterfield at 19:02 on 14 July 2010.
What is the matter with Breckland Council!! You cannot give something to someone, i.e. Caston, and then want to take it back, ridiculous! That piece of land is ideal for children to play on where they can be seen to be safe. Caston has no where else for the kids to go and play and enjoy themselves.
Comment from (No Name Given) at 16:22 on 15 July 2010.
What a silly idea already we do not have enough carpark spaces,access is already cramped, then with BT trying to park for service work in the exchange, where do they suggest the driveways to the plot go, not another potential driveway onto the Attleborough Rd, its an accident in the waiting. Leave the kids to play, what harm do they cause? answer none. Kids need space otherwise they get bored.
Comment from (No name given) at 15:32 on 20 July 2010.
I think we should embarrass Breckland Planning and get the EDP involved. Does anyone have suitable contacts?
Comment from graham at 11:01 on 22 July 2010.
Can we get the tree preservation council to put an order on the trees that would stop the council in they tracks, maybe to trees are a home to some rare insect or something?
Might be worth looking into
Comment from Helen Maxwell at 13:11 on 29 July 2010.
Just to let people know that 19 letters re:Breckland's reversal on land decision and proposed future buildng on the green space have been lodged with Caston Parish council.
Please anybody else who would like to voice their opinion send letter to the Parish clerk. The more objections we have the stronger our collective voice. Thank you.
Comment from K Dearling at 15:21 on 02 September 2011.
If you look at Brecklands plans you will see that the four trees on the land concerned have been labelled as poor quality - should we ask a tree surgeon if this is true? The BT exchange has also been labelled as an electricity sub station. This makes me wonder who, on the council, has actually been out to view the site! The plans also show the parking areas for the proposed houses as exiting into the designated turning area thus causing further serious congestion to an already overcrowded roadway and access points. Do we as a community need to inform the Highways agency? At this juncture in time I feel we should seriously be looking at involving the media and other agencies concerned with rural protection to help us as much as possible with our protest.
Comment from Jason Reynolds at 22:58 on 02 September 2011.
I have just read the above comments and agree with them all. Not only do we live on the terrace it's my children and their friends who play on this small green area. To lose this would be nothing short of shameful. I still can not believe that Breckland Council can be so penny pinching to even consider putting houses on this area spoiling what little green area we have.
This is completely ridiculous in more ways than I can list.
Comment from graham at 11:40 on 04 September 2011.
The trees look fine to me maybe it's the council inspector that is of poor quality. Maybe we can find a rare plant growing on it
Comment from Colin Bearne at 11:57 on 04 September 2011.
I thoroughly agree with all the comments made, and I think the behaviour of the council throughout has been disgraceful, and it continues to be so. Our speed watch team will often be standing in the vicinity of the piece of land in question for up to an hour. As a result we have a good opportunity to observe how well the space is used by local children, and how safe it is for them. It would be madness to increase the number of parked vehicles and make access more difficult. Breckland - have a go at cutting some of the inflated salaries, and stop trying to save money in ways like this!
Comment from georgie rose at 13:29 on 04 September 2011.
Surely there must be a piece of land that we the villagers of Caston could buy between us so that all of our young villagers have a safe area to play in. It has happened in other villages so why not ours?
Comment from Grettl Hughes at 15:47 on 04 September 2011.
We have known for well over a year what Breckland's plan was for this land and it appears nothing has been put in place to halt this. It is time to be proactive and as is suggested above, the media should be involved and immediate help and advice from rural protection agencies such as the Open Spaces Society should be sought. The land qualifies to be registered as a village green and once that has been achieved, it will be protected from development forever and preserved for use by local people.
Comment from Helen Maxwell at 11:31 on 05 September 2011.
This area has been used for recreational purposes for generations and this continues today with at least 15 to 20 children playing regularly here. It is believed that the four trees on the green area were planted in commemoration of the Royal Wedding in 1981 - perhaps a long-standing resident or the Parish Council can confirm this?

I totally agree with the previous comments - Breckland Council’s plans have been known for over a year and this issue now needs to be treated as a matter of urgency by the Parish Council as there are now less than three weeks to take action.

As a strong proactive stand must be taken by all residents and by our Parish Council, I would like to suggest the following as a way forward: (1) immediate membership applied for and advice and assistance sought from other rural agencies, such as the Open Spaces Society and (2) the immediate completion and submission of Form 44 to apply to have these areas registered as village greens. It must be noted that there is NO charge for submission of Form 44.

Open Spaces Society advises:
If you can prove that local people have used the land without secrecy, force or permission for at least 20 years for lawful sports and pastimes, you can apply to register the land as new green. This will protect it from development forever and preserve it for use by local people.

On this basis alone, this area of green space more than adequately qualifies to be registered and officially classified as a ‘village green’ as it has been used as a recreation and play area since the mid-fifties.

It is unbelievable that Breckland Council firstly reneged on their initial decision to give the land to the Caston Parish in 2010 and now are attempting to push through planning permission on this land which will impact hugely on all residents and deny the young people of Caston of their long-held play area.

A petition has been started and will be circulated throughout the village for signatures; it is anticipated that this will demonstrate the widespread objection to Breckland Council’s plans to steamroll planning permission through.
Comment from Lesley Crosthwaite at 12:55 on 05 September 2011.
How is it that Breckland Council can apply for two houses on such a small plot and yet refuse two houses being built further down the road towards Attleborough on a much larger plot? I know that one plot of land is just outside the village guidelines but it is in a much safer area away from a children's play area? If the council are so desperate to make money why do they not purchase the other plot of land and then build two houses? There is also a plot of land for sale beside the pub - they could easily buy this and build and then sell the house and make a profit! It seems to me that promises are being made in this village but manage somehow to get changed.
Comment from Denise Warren at 16:48 on 06 September 2011.
100% agree with all the above. Putting these comments on the Breckland planning application and clicking on opposed would be really helpful.
Comment from Denise Warren at 17:05 on 06 September 2011.
I have just spoken to Zoe Footer (at Breckland Council) again and unfortunately she cannot pass any correspondence to us as it is now in the hands of the communications team. They have had a press enquiry, I believe from the EDP, and are preparing a press release. When I re-questioned her about the land being gifted she told me Caston Parish Council and the solicitors dealing with the case knew the framework and were consulted at every opportunity. The deadline for this to be completed by was April 2010. The site was presented to the Planning Committee Members at Breckland Council and were made aware of the application pending for the land to be transferred to Caston Parish Council subject to completion. Without wanting to state the obvious, this did not happen and Zoe informed me that the Parish Council were aware of the deadline and the future plans that Breckland Council had for the Green.

Zoe had a legal obligation to Breckland Council to pursue other options for use of the land as Caston Parish Council had not responded within the framework. This is not just a problem for Coronation Terrace as I have been informed that this is a test site and depending on the outcome will depend on how many other sites are to be affected.
Caston Parish Council were reimbursed 50% of their legal costs. Although it is after the fact, we need to ask why we were not consulted on this.

I have also spoken to the Case Officer, Chris Raine today. He was visiting Coronation Terrace to put the planning application up. His advice was for all to comment our concerns regarding the proposal as soon as possible. This can be done via http://www.castonparishcouncil.co.uk/localplanningapps.asp

I have also emailed a photo of the BT Openreach vans to him. I'm still awaiting a response from BT Openreach.
Comment from John Barnes at 22:28 on 06 September 2011.
As I mentioned to Brian Brooker, 'The Times' newspaper has been reporting opposition to the government's attitude towards planning. One might get that or another national paper involved.
Comment from Grettl Hughes at 11:50 on 07 September 2011.
Update on information we need to submit with the application to register the areas as 'new village greens': two statements received already confirming that the green area has been in use as a recreational/play area for 20+years - many thanks to those who organised these and also many thanks to the two residents who have taken the time to write their statements.
Comment from Kaye Dearling at 13:01 on 07 September 2011.
How refreshing to read Lesley's comment saying what most of us are thinking! There definitely appears to be one law for the council and another for the rest of us when it comes to planning permission. Are the council plans put before an impartial planning committee or do they pass there own plans? If it is the latter is there not a conflict of interest?
Comment from Webmaster at 18:45 on 30 September 2011.
It gives me some satisfaction to announce that Breckland Council have withdrawn their building application. Here is their email to the Parish Clerk:-

Ms. Skipper,

I refer to the above application which was due to be heard at Planning Committee on Monday 3rd October, 2011. The application has been withdrawn by the applicant and will not be considered at the meeting on Monday.

I have informed those residents who had registered to speak and Mr. Rogers but am aware there may be a number of others who had perhaps intended to come along to the meeting and I will not be able to contact them in time to avoid an unnecessary journey to our offices. I would be grateful if you would inform anyone you may know who had an interest in the application.

Regards

Heather Burlingham
Assistant Planner

Work still remains to be done though by getting this land registered as an "Open Space" to ensure it does not get built on in the future.
Comment from Grettl Hughes at 18:56 on 30 September 2011.
Great news - but as you rightly say Brian - work still remains to be done and we must continue to be proactive on this and not sit back and wait for Breckland's next move. I would like to suggest that the Parish Council immediately requests that Breckland gifts the land, as per the earlier agreement.
Comment from Clare and Jason Reynolds at 19:13 on 30 September 2011.
What fantastic news, we have won the first battle but not the war, we must not let out guard down but keep a close eye on what Breckland do from here on in.
Comment from graham at 00:32 on 01 October 2011.
Good but might be an idea not to park cars and vans etc. on it for a while until we hear what they decide what to do with it
On Thursday there were 3 vehicles parked on it, not helping to keep it for the children

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