Plans for 97 homes at Potton labelled “hugely unpopular” by local councillors have been allowed on appeal, threatening a popular community garden nearby.
A planning inspector found in favour of Tilia Homes Limited (formerly Kier Living Limited), whose full proposals also include 1.2 acres of allotments on land to the south of The Ridgeway.
The demolition of two homes would be required as part of the scheme, which was recommended for approval by Central Bedfordshire Council planning officers in June 2021.
In a social media post, Independent Potton councillor Adam Zerny said: “The inspector attached significant weight to the fact that the land was included in CBC’s 2011 development plan.
“The inspector also noted CBC’s legal team acknowledged ‘the site has capacity to accommodate significant residential development.’
“This last statement is particularly frustrating given such a comment wasn’t in the formal conclusion of the planning committee of councillors which turned the application down.
“He waved away residents’ concerns over vehicle access, although the developer is now forced to provide more detailed schemes of environmental protection for the few areas of green space which will be preserved.
“Despite the lack of support from CBC, Potton residents couldn’t have done anything more to fight this off.
“For the dozens who fought it every step of the way, and the many hundreds who objected, you should be proud regardless,” added councillor Zerny.
“If one looks for silver linings, the developer will be forced to make more than £1.3m financial contributions to the local community.”
Environmental issues, traffic and access were the parish council’s main concerns at the local authority’s development management committee meeting last summer.
“There were 759 responses opposing the project compared to nine in favour,” the meeting heard.
Resident of The Paddocks David Huntly described it as “one of the most controversial and opposed planning applications in local area history”.
He said: “There was a petition with more than 800 signatures. This isn’t just nimbyism. It’s completely opposed in Potton.”
Independent Potton councillor Tracey Wye described the land as “nationally rare irreplaceable acid grassland, home to a number of protected species”, referred to as “paddock land” in the committee report.
A Tilia Homes spokesman said: “The company will deliver 97 homes in Potton, with 38 of these affordable properties. Our revised scheme also includes bungalows.
“We’ll provide £1.3m to support local education, sports and leisure facilities, and other community services.
“Two-and-a-half acres of green open space will feature an orchard and play area, with 1.2 acres designed as a community allotment. Homes will have swift and bat boxes to encourage wildlife to the area.
“We know the acid grassland is important locally, which is why we’re relocating the most significant area of this within our green space.
“Residents set up a community garden after our initial application was submitted last year.
“But the planning inspector deemed the highway verge may be used for road widening, as this is important for site access, highway safety and parking.”
Councillors had rejected the scheme because of loss of amenity and biodiversity, with ten votes in favour, none against and two abstentions.
But an appeal was submitted in January with the hearing held in April.