Fear of flooding holds up pit plan

AN application for a borrow pit on a controversial housing site in Caister has been deferred by county councillors, despite planning officers recommending approval.

AN application for a borrow pit on a controversial housing site in Caister has been deferred by county councillors, despite planning officers recommending approval.

Concerns around drainage and the impact the pit would have on the water system - made up of underground springs and dykes - caused members of Norfolk County Council's planning regulatory committee to defer the application.

Work on a site off West Road in Caister ground to a halt earlier this year after developer Bloor Homes dug a borrow pit - moving soil from one location to another - without permission.

Subsequently, members of the county council's minerals planning team visited the site - deciding an application needed to go before the council.

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Permission for 150 homes was granted last year subject to a 106 agreement relating to affordable housing and open space. However, Bloor Homes has dug the pit in the area identified for open space, sparking concern among local residents.

Caister Parish Council bitterly opposed the application stressing the work was “not obvious in their original planning application”.

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While no one from the parish council was present at the meeting on Friday at County Hall in Norwich, its chairman Tony Overill was pleased about the decision and felt both borough and county councils were finally beginning to “take on board” the concerns of local people.

Speaking to the Mercury this week he said: “In the middle of the site where they have dug you can see it fills up with water. There are underground springs on this site and that water will continue to flow whether you dig a hole or fill it in and build on it.

“Another concern we have is that when they fill this pit in with sand and aggregate, will it be compatible with the butter clay as it could well absorb the sand.”

Mr Overill said the parish council had been tackling these issues for “years” but added they had been “ignored” until now.

He said: “No one has listened to the concerns of local people and that has annoyed us more than anything.”

Mr Overill reeled off a number of other issues that had caused residents concern including the stability of the marsh following the extraction of soil; the level of water in dykes which surround the site and the amount of dust being spread to nearby properties on Westerly Way.

Patrick Hacon, county councillor for Caister division, attended the meeting and raised several issues with the committee including dust problems, the lack of control on site and asked for the pit to be reinstated to the original level.

The application was deferred for reports on drainage and will be considered again in the near future.

If approved it means Bloor Homes would be able to extract 158,000 tonnes of sand and clay for raising ground levels on the housing site to 1.66metres.

The site has been at the centre of controversy for almost 10 years after it was given outline planning permission in 1999.

The application for 150 homes was last year referred to the secretary of state following local concerns over flooding and climate change.

However, it was handed back to the borough council who gave it the go-ahead because reversing the decision would have cost thousands in compen-sation.

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