Campaigners at the application site earlier this year. Picture: Ian Burt

Plans for up to 600 homes in South Wootton can now go ahead after the secretary of state overruled local objections to the Knights Hill development.

West Norfolk Council rejected an outline application for a new housing estate and community facilities on 86 acres of farmland between Grimston Road and the A149 in March last year.

Planning committee members were concerned about the development’s potential impact on the road network and on the grade-I listed Castle Rising, but the highways objection was later withdrawn.

The applicants Whistlewood and Reffley Wood Ltd and Mr P. De Gray Osborn appealed the decision and a public inquiry was held in January.

More than 900 people signed a petition, a campaign group was formed and several thousand pounds raised to fight the development.

Among those to speak at the inquiry was former North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham, who described the development as the “estate from hell”.

But the planning inspectorate’s report, completed in April, has recommended the appeal be allowed and this week Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for housing, communities and local government, agreed with the conclusions.

The application, which includes 112 affordable homes, provision for a shop and other businesses, open spaces, sports pitches, road, cycle and pedestrian links, a car park to serve Reffley Wood and an allotment/community orchard area, has outline planning permission as a result.

Access to the site will be via a new roundabout on the A148 Grimston Road, on Knights Hill.

The secretary of state said the benefits of the development, particularly the provision of homes, outweighed the “less than substantial” harm to heritage assets in the area, including Bawsey ruins.

His decision letter agreed “there would be harm to the setting of Rising Lodge”, but “such harm would be limited by the proposed intervening open space” and the listed building would “retain its isolated, rural and open setting”.

It also said the “delivery of the appeal site” would increase flexibility in delivering a five-year housing supply for the borough, which was a “matter of significant importance”.

Reacting to the news, North West Norfolk MP James Wild said: “This is a very disappointing decision based on an inspector’s report that overrides strong local opposition to this development.

The proposed development site. Picture: Paul Tibbs

“Despite acknowledging that the development is not required to meet local housing needs, the inspector recommended it be allowed to proceed. 

“I spoke against this proposal at the inquiry on behalf of my constituents and I am saddened that their views have been disregarded.”

Campaigners warned there would be “road chaos” with Grimston Road and the A149 already gridlocked during the summer with coastal traffic. 

They also argued local facilities, including the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, could not cope with the influx of residents.

South Wootton, North Wootton and Castle Rising parish councils all objected and, in joint statement issued this week, said the decision was “fundamentally flawed”.

“There should be no doubt this development will add considerable extra traffic to what are already congested roads, whether along the over-capacity bypass to Hardwick or through South Wootton into the town,” it said. 

“The fact is that even without this unnecessary development, about 550 new homes are approved to be built in the South Wootton area which of themselves will increase traffic significantly and unacceptably. We can therefore look forward to even worse air quality than is already experienced in Gaywood and the town centre.

“If we’re to have unneeded homes built, then the least the authorities can now do is to support the local population by providing a proper level of infrastructure.”