Colditz fears over giant fence at new homes near A50 in Hilton
Fears have been raised that a huge fence set to be installed near new homes to shield them from noise from the nearby A50 will look like something from Colditz – the German World War Two prisoner of war castle which few escaped from as its wall were practically impenetrable. Ir comes as final plans for more than 50 new houses in a South Derbyshire village have been begrudgingly approved by councillors.
The 57 news houses for Lucas Lane, Hilton, were fully approved by members of the South Derbyshire District Council meeting earlier this week. Councillors ultimately appeared to rue missed opportunities at meeting as this came after a number of years of to-ing and fro-ing over the scheme. Councillors commented that just because they had granted outline approval for “up to” 57 homes on the site did not mean a developer could or should attempt to put that maximum number on the plot during the debate.
Councillors felt the 57-home Morris Homes Ltd scheme was too dense and that a legally-protected oak tree on the site could be harmed due to an access point for the plot being approved over its root system. Council officers stressed to councillors that they had approved a scheme of up to 57 homes in 2020 so developers were well within their rights to propose exactly that, and that councillors had approved an access point directly next to a protected oak already.
The remaining details of the scheme related to layout of the site and a need to ensure that wildlife habits lost through building on the plot were offset by planting trees and shrubs etc elsewhere. This will take place on a separate plot to the east of Lucas Lane, the developer said.
Concerns over the protection of great crested newts are to be mitigated through a specific licence which the developer has secured from Natural England, a council planning officer said. The officer said there had been “some compromise on design” but officials did not want to “impact neighbours unduly”.
He said: “We have balanced a lot of things with the design but have tried to get it to look like Hilton.” A root protection plan for the oak tree has been requested as part of the scheme before work can start.
The greenfield site on the north side of the village would become home to two one-bed houses, 14 two-bed houses, 22 three-bed houses and 19 four-bed houses. Cllr Charles Cuddington, chairman of Hilton Parish Council, told the meeting that the area had adopted a Neighbourhood Plan and that the scheme did not match numerous policies laid out in that blueprint.
This includes a need for more bungalows, for fewer homes and for a better layout, with a missed opportunity “to insist on high quality development”. A council officer said the district authority approved the outline 57-home scheme before Hilton and the surrounding area had adopted its neighbourhood plan and the overall permission being in place “is the key driver”.
Kevin Pearson, design and planning director at Morris Homes Ltd, said the detailed scheme was in line with what was approved at outline and that biodiversity and the noise from the adjacent A50 had been properly considered. He said work around the protected oak would be “kept to a minimum” and that the scheme would be “a most attractive addition to Hilton”.
Cllr Gillian Lemmon said she would want the scheme to include more bungalows before she could call it “acceptable” and said the timing of the homes being approved just before the neighbourhood development plans was adopted was “uncanny”. Cllr Lisa Brown said: “It is a decision I am most concerned about. The outline approval was for up to 57, that’s important, up to. It is over dense in my view and there are not enough trees because there is not enough room for them.
“There is talk of what must be an enormous acoustic fence (to block noise from the A50) and the A50 at this point is elevated. This is going to have to be a colossal structure.” Council officers detailed that acoustic fencing would be three metres tall along parts of the site closest to the A50.
Cllr Brown said: “We really need to see what this (the fencing) is going to look like, it sounds like a sort of Colditz situation, we need to know what is going to be happening.” Colditz – a German castle dating back to the Middle Ages – was used as a Nazi prisoner of war camp during the Second World War for people who had previously escaped from other camps. Almost all escape attempts failed.
Cllr Brown continued: “It is extremely dense and it didn’t have to be 57 houses, it could have been less and been more sympathetic. We shouldn’t be compromising about the distances between homes at this stage.” Cllr Trevor Southerd, deputy leader of the council, said: “It is a shame that the neighbourhood plan did not come before all of this.
“The outline decision gave permission for up to 57 and we are in a situation now where it would be difficult to not approve now when we approved 57 at outline.” Cllr Amy Wheelton said: “I do have great sympathy about the neighbourhood plan but process is process.”
Councillors also approved plans from the developer to trim the lower branches of the protected oak tree by four metres to keep them clear of vehicles which would pass on the adjacent access point for the new housing site. Cllr Wheelton said councillors should have known more about the protected tree at outline stage.
Cllr Melanie Bridgen said: “Can we ensure that if any damage to this tree, however small, that action is taken against the developer?”. Officers said enforcement action could be taken if that were to happen. Of the approved homes, 17 would be classed as affordable housing, of which two would be one-bed houses, nine would be two-bed houses, and six would be three-bed houses.
All but four of the 57 homes would be two storeys tall, with two bungalows and two two-and-a-half storey houses.