A bid to turn a failed hospital into housing has led to a row between locals and a Norfolk council who say their attempts to raise concerns about the development were ignored for months.

The dispute played out at a North Norfolk District Council development committee meeting as members debated on whether or not to approve plans to turn a now-defunct mental health hospital in Catfield into new homes.

According to Janet Briscoe, a Catfield parish councillor, NNDC failed to respond to their questions about the application - which seeks to turn the former Milestones mental health facility into 21 houses - for four months.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Councillors Kevin Bayes and Matthew Taylor, who represent Stalham and CatfieldCouncillors Kevin Bayes and Matthew Taylor, who represent Stalham and Catfield (Image: Newsquest)

They finally got a response just six days before the meeting, which the parish council said did not give adequate time to issue a response.

Ms Briscoe said: "There has been a total breakdown of communication. This application has been prejudiced by a lack of response to our concerns. It should be deferred."

Mathew Taylor, a district councillor who represents Catfield, said he could not comment on the merits of the application due to the lack of notice. 

"I refuse to be forced into a corner. The views of my community in Catfield have not been properly represented."

It is the latest development in an ongoing dispute between Mr Taylor and his fellow ward representative Kevin Bayes, who have argued that the area they represent, which includes the town of Stalham, is being overlooked by NNDC who prioritise more affluent areas like Cromer, Sheringham and Holt.

North Norfolk District Council officers apologised for the failure to respond to the parish council but they defended bringing the application to the committee, believing there was adequate information in the report for members to make a decision and did not need any further comments from Catfield Parish Council.

Despite this, councillors decided to vote on whether or not to defer to a later date, with several members sympathising with the frustrations the situation had caused Catfield's councillors.

After a vote, nine members voted to defer the decision, while three voted against this.


Great Yarmouth Mercury: The entrance to Milestones Hospital in CatfieldThe entrance to Milestones Hospital in Catfield (Image: Google)

Milestones Hospital, which was owned by millionaire Norfolk landowner Henry Cator, was shut down in 2021 after health inspectors barred it from taking new patients due to a string of safety concerns.

Developer Lion Properties wants to turn the site into 21 houses, which they say will give new life to the disused brownfield site.

However, there are a number of concerns.

It is also feared that the revamp will result in the loss of a mental health facility - a provision lacking in the area -and the jobs that would go with it. 

Architect Ben Edwards, speaking on behalf of Lion Properties, claimed that there was no viable bid made by a company looking to bring it back into use as a health facility.

However, it was revealed that the property had only been marketed for three months, whereas the process should have lasted for 12 months.

Councillors are also disappointed at the lack of affordable housing, which the developer say is "unviable."

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Councillor Victoria HollidayCouncillor Victoria Holliday (Image: Newsquest)

Councillor Victoria Holliday highlighted that this would go against "what the council is trying to achieve" regarding housing.

There are also concerns that due to the properties being one to two bed homes, it could lead to them being snapped up by landlords wanting to use them as holiday lets.

A decision on the application, which has been recommended for approval by NNDC planning officers, will likely come before the development committee members again later this month.

A report to councillors says: "This development secures the future of a vacant building worthy of retention in the countryside, and delivers an appropriate mix of housing."