A three-week inquiry into plans to build 400 new homes at Newmarket’s Hatchfield Farm ended on Friday but it will be months before a final decision is known.
On the final day planning inspector, Christina Downes, heard lengthy closing arguments from the legal teams representing landowner Lord Derby and the opposing Newmarket Horsemen’s Group (NHG) and Forest Heath District Council, whose planning committee approved the original planning application, a decision subsequently called in by the Secretary of State .
David Elvin and Charles Banner for the NHG said it opposed the development “out of a genuine concern for the good health of a nationally important industry.”
“The resilience of the industry in the past does not guarantee future growth and a continuing attractiveness of Newmarket as the prime location for the racing industry unless it is protected from the risk which would cause owners to lose faith in Newmarket and direct their substantial investment elsewhere,” said Mr Elvin.
For Lord Derby Christopher Boyle told the hearing that Newmarket was “unarguably the most sustainable settlement for additional housing growth”, and that the Hatchfield Farm parcel of land was the only significant area that was not affected by the district’s current policies in place to protect the town’s horse racing industry.
“Whether or not there is a five year land supply, the provision of housing, with its full 30 per cent contribution of affordable housing, in this sustainable location, is a matter that attracts significant positive weight,” he said.
The inquiry was told that if planning permission was to be granted, it could be at lease two years before any houses were built as Lord Derby still had to find a buyer for the site.
Earlier when giving evidence for Lord Derby, town planner Bob Sellwood, said Hatchfield Farm would make a “valuable contribution to housing needs in Newmarket.”
He said there were currently just 90 empty housing units in the town , which he said was an “exceptionally low figure” for the largest town in the district,” and added that the Hatchfield development would provide 30 per cent affordable housing.