Much loved community garden in Potton could be 'destroyed' as developers appeal controversial planning application for 97 houses

'We will fight the developer's appeal every step of the way'

By Joanna Gravett
Thursday, 17th February 2022, 2:38 pm

A much-loved community garden could be "destroyed" as developers appeal a controversial planning application.

Tilia Homes wants to build 97 houses in the fields just to the south of the Paddocks and Sutton Mill Road in Potton - but had its ideas rejected in June by Central Bedfordshire Council.

It is now appealing the decision and says it would "bring forward much-needed homes to support Central Beds Council in meeting its five-year land supply".

The community garden.

But local residents strongly disagree.

Back in June, they were outraged to learn that there were plans to rip out the verges down Sutton Mill Road, "destroying" their beautiful community garden to make way for heavy plant machinery to access the development.

And they have still not given up the fight.

Speaking on behalf of her neighbours, Resident Sanchia Munns said: "Our garden area has brought our community together and has had a positive impact on the health and well being of its members, especially through the pandemic which has been especially hard on many people.

"It has brought in bees and other insects, butterflies and moths, and had a positive impact for insects and pollinators that are in serious decline.

"If it is destroyed to widen the road and make way for heavy plant machinery we would lose this beneficial resource - a nectar bar that links up with the surrounding gardens and countryside - and a community project that has had positive mental health benefits for the volunteers."

Sanchia also argued that the loss of the grass verges would cause "extreme difficulties" for residents who use the grass to place their bins on bin day, as well as access problems for the bin men, the disabled, and mothers with prams.

She added: "It would exacerbate all general access issues due to extra traffic, increasing stress and mental health problems for residents and all users of the road."

The refusal, back in June, saw hundreds of local residents objecting to the application and many of them speaking at council planning meetings.

Central Bedfordshire and Potton Town Councillor, Adam Zerny, said: "The developer had wished to build 97 houses in the fields just to the south of the Paddocks and Sutton Mill Road, and it would have involved all the traffic from the development being channelled through those two residential roads. In addition, it put rare acid grassland under threat.

"Residents have until February 23 to make any representations to the Planning Inspectorate. Central Beds Council says if you have made comments already to the council, these should be forwarded on.

"You should also let the Inspectorate know if you'd like to speak at the public hearing, which will begin on April 20 and last about six days. Ordinarily, you will be told which day and time you are required, so you wouldn't have to be there for the whole six days. Most recent hearings have taken place virtually."

He added: "The housing development was opposed not just by Central Beds Council, local ward members and Potton Town Council but most importantly by hundreds of members of the community. We will fight the developer's appeal every step of the way."

A spokesman for Tilia Homes said: “The land to the south of The Ridgeway is allocated in the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan 2035 for a minimum for 90 new homes and 0.5 hectares of allotments. Our proposal is for 97 homes and a further 0.5 hectares of open space to the south and east of the site.

"This has been designed to accommodate local reptiles and we hope will also attract a number of wildlife species, as well as re-locating some of the existing acid grassland within this green area. We understand a community garden was set up by local residents after our planning application was submitted.

"This parcel of land is controlled by the statutory highways authority, and it may be used for road widening if this is deemed necessary for site access.

“We are also going to be partnering with a local Registered Provider to deliver 38 affordable homes which is above the 30 per cent requirement.

"This is in addition to a £1.3 million contribution towards local education, sports and leisure facilities and other community services. The site would bring forward much-needed homes to support Central Bedfordshire Council in meeting its five-year land supply.

“Our original application was refused despite being recommended for approval by the local planning officer and we have therefore taken the decision to go through the appeals process.”

A Central Bedfordshire Council spokesman said: "Planning permission was refused by members of the Development Management Committee for this development. Full details are available to read online.

"The developer has appealed, and a decision will now be made by the Planning Inspectorate. Third parties and members of the public also have the opportunity to make comments online."

Alternatively, for any questions for the Planning Inspectorate, email [email protected] quoting reference APP/P0240/W/21/3289675 .