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Luxury homes built in south Norfolk BEFORE developer met planning conditions

PUBLISHED: 06:30 14 June 2018 | UPDATED: 16:22 14 June 2018

The Watermill Meadow development at Stoke Holy Cross. Photo: Archant

The Watermill Meadow development at Stoke Holy Cross. Photo: Archant

Archant

Luxury homes have been built and marketed in South Norfolk before planning conditions for them have been met.

The Watermill Meadow development at Stoke Holy Cross. Photo: ArchantThe Watermill Meadow development at Stoke Holy Cross. Photo: Archant

The houses at the Watermill Meadow development, off Broomfield Road in Stoke Holy Cross, were given planning permission in June 2017 by South Norfolk District Council (SNDC).

As is the case with most large developments, building was not meant to begin until certain conditions had been met for sewerage, flooding and roads.

But Hopkins Homes have built and marketed the houses, even though several planning conditions have not been discharged.

SNDC said it would not take enforcement action but was working with the developer to resolve the issue.

Retired solicitor John Martin discovered the new home he wanted to buy had not met planning conditions. Photo: John MartinRetired solicitor John Martin discovered the new home he wanted to buy had not met planning conditions. Photo: John Martin

The council is also having a meeting with all major builders to remind them about abiding by planning conditions, following this case.

Hopkins Homes, meanwhile, said it had been in “full and regular dialogue” with the council but “unexpected delays” had held up the discharge of conditions. They said they expected the remaining conditions to be discharged shortly.

John Martin, who looked at buying one of the homes, said he was “horrified” when he discovered conditions had not been met.

The retired solicitor paid £1,000 to reserve one of the homes in April.

The Watermill Meadow development at Stoke Holy Cross. Photo: ArchantThe Watermill Meadow development at Stoke Holy Cross. Photo: Archant

He paid another £3,000 for extras at the five-bedroom, £550,000 home.

But Hopkins later told him that the foul water drainage for his home would not be connected to the mains by the time he moved in and would instead be stored in a pumping station.

One Hopkins employee, however, told him in an email that was “completely normal” and the sewerage would be connected within the following two months.

In a complaint to Hopkins, Mr Martin said he could not “lawfully” occupy the home as he would be moving in before planning conditions had been discharged.

The Hopkins Homes website for its Stoke Holy Cross development. Image: Hopkins HomesThe Hopkins Homes website for its Stoke Holy Cross development. Image: Hopkins Homes

Hopkins refunded him his money and repaid his legal costs.

Mr Martin also complained to SNDC.

One SNDC planning officer said in an email to him he “shared his frustration”, but added that the council was working with the developer.

The planning conditions included details of water drainage to reduce flooding risks, details of foul water and sewage disposal and plans for roads and footpaths to be approved by the council before building began.

In September last year, Hopkins asked SNDC to discharge the conditions.

But the highways authority, Norfolk County Council, said highway conditions should not yet be discharged.

In April it said “there remains a concern” with the road foundations which had already been built “without adequate testing”.

The flood authority, meanwhile, said in May it was concerned the development had begun before flooding conditions had been met and conditions should not be discharged.

“A number of properties may be at risk from flooding in an exceedance event,” it said.

“We would recommend that the external ground levels immediately adjacent to the entrances to the buildings are reviewed and amended in line with best practice.”

And Anglian Water said in April that the planning condition for getting rid of sewage had not been met. “It is not clear from the provided documentation what the proposed foul drainage solution is for this site,” it said.

But last week it recommended that condition could now be discharged.

Regarding flooding, SNDC said in June it had met with the flood authority and their concerns would be addressed, meaning that condition could soon be discharged.

The council also said the highway authority had now told them the “majority of details” submitted by Hopkins were “satisfactory”.

Simon Bryan, development director at Hopkins, said they had encountered “unexpected delays” in the planning process.

“The development at Stoke Holy Cross has been built in full and regular dialogue with the local planning authority and to the correct house building standards stipulated in the planning conditions and high standards that we insist upon,” he said.

“As a result, all completed buildings have been formally signed off by the National House Building Council.”

He added the remaining conditions were expected to be discharged “very shortly”.

•Why council allowed development

Planning authority South Norfolk Council (SNDC) allowed the building work to carry on even though conditions had not been met.

The council said its policy was to “actively seek to resolve any breaches of planning control”.

It said it worked with developers in the first instance to get them to meet conditions.

It only considered taking enforcement where there was “demonstrable harm being caused to matters of public interest”, a spokesman said.

In this case, the spokesman said, it was “disappointing” the conditions had not been met before the development began.

They said the delay to the council discharging conditions was caused by them needing more details from Hopkins.

SNDC is now setting up a meeting with directors of all major house builders in the region to highlight the importance of conditions put in when applications are approved.

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Caroline Culot

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