Hatchfield: Council has serious concerns

editorial image

Serious concerns about Lord Derby’s proposal to build 400 homes at Newmarket’s Hatchfield Farm have been raised by Suffolk County Council.

In a lengthy letter to planning authority Forest Heath District Council, the Ipswich-based authority has outlined crucial issues about the proposed 49-acre development, significantly that it is being proposed in a town which has to “delicately balance the needs of local people and the horse racing industry”, before the district council has an agreed housing plan.

Concerns have also been linked to what the council called “the insufficient provision” for new school places made necessary by the development, the traffic implications, especially the creation of additional vehicle movements and for those moving race horses around the town and the development’s environmental consequences.

As a result, the county council is asking Forest Heath to decide whether the Hatchfield application should be considered before the total number of houses allowed in Newmarket has been fully discussed and agreed.

Newmarket county councillor, and Suffolk County Council’s deputy leader, Lisa Chambers, said: “Newmarket is a unique town with very specific needs. These include the yet-to-be finalised requirement for more housing, but also the imperative to make sure the area remains attractive to the horse racing industry on which so many people rely for work.

“This development will create the need for at least 100 additional primary school places but, in the absence of an adopted local plan, and a suitable identified site for a new school, it becomes harder to ensure that proper provision will be made.

“This is a critical issue in any large scale development and must be looked at carefully before any development is considered. If this development goes ahead, we will want to work with the district council to ensure that the developer provides all the necessary infrastructure.”

A recent study commissioned by Forest Heath District council and the Newmarket Horsemen’s Group showed the racing industry was estimated to support some 3,285 full time equivalent jobs within 25 miles of Newmarket and contribute more than £200 million to the local economy.

Councillor Richard Smith, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for economic development, planning and environment, said:“The county council believes that to do our best by Newmarket, and to ensure that the town remains attractive to the horse racing industry, the local plan offers our best opportunity for managing new development. It is therefore disappointing that Forest Heath is being asked to consider this development in isolation and on an ad hoc basis.”

Councillor Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for roads and transport, added: “A housing development of this size will always pose challenges for the surrounding road network. If the district council decides to consider the application now, clear conditions must be placed on the developer so that improvements are fully funded and that the local area, and residents, are not adversely affected.

“A comprehensive travel plan must be developed which makes it easier for people to walk, cycle and use public transport to reduce the additional traffic movements that could be created by the new development.”

Yesterday’s announcement follows a call made in August last year to the developer, Lord Derby, to take account of the views of Newmarket people - before submitting it.

Councillor Chambers wrote to Lord Derby urging him to consider a set of objectives for the future of the town, agreed by a wide cross section of the Newmarket community, ahead of making an application.

Lord Derby’s proposed development would be the first to come forward since the Newmarket Vision was agreed in July 2013.

At the time, Councillor Chambers said: “We want everyone that proposes a development to treat the agreed vision as the “voice of Newmarket” - and act upon it so that we can have a thriving town that becomes stronger than ever.

“Newmarket is one of Suffolk’s most famous and exceptional towns and if we’re to do our best by it, it’s important that we all come together around common goals.

“Newmarket deserves to thrive in a way that is fitting for a global headquarters of horse racing. I urge Lord Derby to listen to Newmarket and consider very carefully the vision before making another planning application.”

The Newmarket Vision sets out ambitions to improve the town’s public open spaces, travel routes for walkers, cyclists and horses and create a vibrant and thriving high street.

The independent report, written and published by the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community on behalf of Newmarket stakeholders, sets out ten vision statements aimed at making the town a better place to live, work and visit over the next 20 years. Funded by Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, and Newmarket Town Council, the work was led by the Prince’s Foundation and involved residents, the racing industry, developers and retailers.