Backing for Aylsham homes and pitches scheme

Controversial plans for 250 homes and nine football pitches outside Aylsham's development boundary have been backed by the town council on the casting vote of its chairman.

About 15 concerned residents living on the new St Michael's Place development packed last week's council meeting where the Youngs' scheme for a 40-acre site near their homes split councillors, with four voting in favour and four against.

But chairman Eileen Springall did not hesitate before casting her vote for the proposal, saying: 'We are a big sporting family and I would find it very difficult not to support this. It is trying to help sport in Aylsham which is extremely important for young people – and older ones as well.'

The plan, submitted by local farming family the Youngs, would see them gift 20 acres to be used by Aylsham Football Club and other community organisations, plus �500,000 to kick-start those facilities, if the go-ahead was given for 250 homes on the rest of the site, west of St Michael's Hospital.

Several residents addressed the council to voice their fears over the development.

Cassie Warnock said the plans showed eight homes on the new St Michael's site but there were now about 30 occupied and many residents, including herself, had not been consulted. One man's home was only 100m from the proposed sewage plant which was part of the 'enormous' application.

Geoff Fletcher listed objections including smells from the sewage works, the loss of views and light pollution from pitch floodlighting.

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And Angela Quinn, a Burgh Road resident, feared the scheme would 'upset the balance' of Aylsham by concentrating development on the Norwich side of the town.

Mark Nolan, director of architects Chaplin Farrant who are designing the scheme, was also at the meeting and said the homes would include 75 affordable properties, which were much needed in the area.

Opponents were backed by town, district and county councillor David Harrison, who said he was not against the pitches but described the offer of football and community facilities as a 'soft sell' in order to get permission for the 250 homes, and asked: 'Why should we tolerate it?'

Councillor Liz Jones said she was appalled to hear that some near neighbours had not been consulted, and had fears about the risk of road accidents in the Woodgate bends area; but believed the plan was the best option for the deservedly-successful Aylsham Football Club.

Councillor Jim Pannell said he did not intend to support plans for a large-scale housing development because he believed the associated amenities would only benefit those who were interested in football.

And he disagreed with Mike Bush who said councillors should not allow their decision to be influenced by any 'hypothetical applications' for other parts of the town – meaning the Welbeck plan, which is also outside the town's current development boundary.

Mr Bush, who proposed that the council support the application, maintained that the majority of Aylsham would benefit from the amenities.

The town council is a key consultee on the scheme, which will be decided by Broadland District Council. A Broadland spokesman said that was unlikely to happen before May.

Nick Youngs, who owns the land with his brother William, is the father of England Rugby Union star Ben Youngs.