Newmarket MP Matthew Hancock has been backed by members of the All-Party Parliamentary Racing Group in calling on secretary of state Eric Pickles to intervene after councillors approved plans for 400 new homes at Hatchfield Farm.
Speaking after members of Forest Heath District Council’s planning committee had voted 10-5 to approve the development of 50 acres of Lord Derby’s Fordham Road farm,
Mr Hancock said: “Had there been any assurance that the remaining land on Hatchfield farm would not be built on, I could have potentially supported the development. As no such assurances were given, it is clear that this proposal is the same as last time, only split in three. I, therefore, think it is appropriate that I do all I can to ensure that, like last time, such a damaging development in the heart of Newmarket is prevented. I am confident that, as before, we will win that argument.”
Councillors had visited the greenfield site ahead of their meeting on Wednesday when they approve the scheme which racing has long argued could do irreparable harm to a world-renowned industry that pumps more than £200 million a year into the local economy.
Newmarket councillor, Warwick Hirst, said his biggest concerns was the traffic the development would generate and that he had no confidence in the traffic study carried out by Suffolk Country Council’s Jon Noble, who claimed the estate would see daily movements of 51 cars turning left out of the development and 55 turning right.
“Most mornings a week between 8am and 9.15am traffic is static from the roundabout at Fordham to the A14. I just don’t believe that two sets of traffic lights on the A14 slip roads are going to make the traffic flow ok,” he said.
However Brandon councillor Eddie Stewart, who spent much of the meeting complaining how long the discussion had taken said: “All this emotion does not sway me. As for the traffic issue, I always listen to highways. We need the houses, we have discussed this to death and I am fed up with it.”
Before the meeting there was a demonstration against the scheme and councillors heard there had been 100 letters objecting and one in support. After the meeting William Gittus, chairman of the Newmarket Horsemen’s Group, who spoke against the scheme said he was disappointed but not surprised by the decision. “We hope we are wrong,” he said, “because by the time we are proved right it will be too late.”
And Hugh Anderson, managing director of Godolphin and a director of Darley, the racing and breeding arms of Sheikh Mohammed’s thoroughbred operation said: “We note that the Secretary of State will now take a view as to whether this matter should be called in for further inquiry as a matter of national importance. We hope that he does reach this conclusion and that the racing industry will have another opportunity to put its case and outline our concerns for the town. For 400 years Newmarket has been a superb location for training and breeding racehorses; we are huge supporters of the town and the racing industry and sincerely hope that it can maintain its status into the future.”
A spokeswoman for Lord Derby said: “We are confident that when the Secretary of State has had a chance to review the facts, and in particular his conclusions on the last application where he found that it would have no adverse impact on the horse racing industry, he will allow local democracy to take its course. In the longer term, should the scheme progress, we will ensure that horse racing and Newmarket will both be winners.”