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Plan critics have second chance

PUBLISHED: 16:59 07 August 2008 | UPDATED: 11:32 03 July 2010

DISPUTE: The former United Reformed church in Gorleston

DISPUTE: The former United Reformed church in Gorleston

Laura Bagshaw

AN “ill-advised development” approved by councillors last month is going back before the borough council following complaints over planning procedure by objectors.

AN “ill-advised development” approved by councillors last month is going back before the borough council following complaints over planning procedure by objectors.

Plans to convert the former United Reformed Church in Gorleston into four flats and five terraced houses won approval at the July meeting of the development control committee.

The scheme on Back Chapel Lane/Garnham Road sparked fierce criticism from neighbours who said the development would cause a string of problems such as parking, traffic and loss of privacy.

During the meeting at the Town Hall residents complained about the lack of notice for the meeting and for not receiving any objection letters in their papers.

Breitling Homes wanted to develop five three-bedroom houses and a mix of one, two and three-bedroom flats and car parking on the site and councillors approved the plans believing them to be “ideal”.

However, following further complaints from residents the council has decided to bring the application back before the committee.

Objector Mike Higgins said he was “disgusted” with how the meeting was run and felt many objectors had been confused by the proceedings.

He said: “We were upset because we were unable to get our points across. Now we have a couple of weeks to get things in order.”

Mr Higgins added he would be consulting the fire service over the project because of his concerns over access.

“Last time the fire service were called here they had a hard time getting a fire engine down the road,” said Mr Higgins.

Dr Heather Sayer, of High Street, Gorleston, spoke at the last meeting on behalf of the objectors and told the Mercury she felt they did not have a fair hearing.

Residents were concerned about many issues, she said, the main ones being disabled access and safety.

Dr Sayer said residents were not against a development on the church site but did not approve of the current plans on the table.

She said: “Converting the church we have no problem with because you are utilising what is there. We have a problem with the number of houses on Back Chapel Lane.

“It is an ill advised development.”

Dr Sayer said Gorleston was not short of two or three-bedroom homes.

“At the time of the last meeting there were about 186 homes on the market so I can't see where there is a shortage.”

“I just hope we will be given a fair hearing,” she added.

The church closed its doors to worshipers in July last year, blaming a dwindling congregation for its demise. It was established in 1812 and had a long history of serving the local and visiting fishing community.

Planning officer Dean Minns said following complaints from residents over the short notice of the meeting the council had decided to bring it back before the committee on August 19.

He said the response time had been reduced because of the two-day strike by council staff.

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