Concerns over development

Concerns have been raised about a new development in Stalham which was not built in accordance with original planning permission.

Stalham Town Council and its chairman, Tony Ross-Benham, say they have been left angered by the fact the district council did not check-up on what was being built on the Old Baker's Yard development in the High Street.

Consent was granted in 2008 for the site, which was originally a builders' merchant and department store, to house 10 houses, five flats and two shops. The flats are affordable homes for Victory Housing Association.

The developers say during the building work, they found the timber frame construction of the flats meant they would need deeper floor and ceiling joists. This, along with the need to accommodate pipework, increased the proportions of the building, meaning the roof ridges and edges are slightly higher than in original plans.

The completed front of the flats and shops building also has more extensive areas of brickwork and the position and the number of windows differs from original plans.

However, no-one was alerted to the alterations being made until the town council wrote to the district council in July this year and told them what had happened. As a result a retrospective planning application to amend 14 conditions of the original planning permission, was put in by Victory Housing Trust.

Mr Ross-Benham said: 'It was only after we had complained that anything has been done about the failure of the developer to adhere to planning regulations.

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'This development does not seem to have been dealt with correctly by the planning department, planning officers and the planning committee.'

He said the resulting building is not in keeping with the conservation area, which it surrounds.

In a report to the district council's development committee, on August 26, looking at the retrospective planning application, the council's conservation, design and landscape manager said: 'The site is of course a very prominent one, standing as it does on the main shopping street of Stalham. The resultant building is very disappointing. In its current form, the general quality of the development and overall choice of materials leaves much to be desired.

'The end result pays little regard to Stalham's local architectural distinctiveness.'

But it added: 'In my view the change in overall height from the approved plans is not that significant.

'The development does not dominate the nearby church and contributes to the organic pattern of built form along the street.'

The development committee on September 23 approved amended plans, including creating more appropriate windows and enhanced shop fronts. The conservation manager said the resultant appearance of the building would now be acceptable.

Philip Burton, district council chief executive officer, confirmed no site visits were done while work was carried out, and that the council were not aware of the changes to the original plans until being alerted by the town council.

He said council policy did not require a routine inspection of every site as it is being built.

Victory Housing Trust did not wish to comment.