Councillors have given their cautious backing to a controversial housing development so work can start on a school site included in it.
Suffolk County Council took the unique step of asking Forest Heath development control committee to say if it was ‘of a mind’ to approve 375 homes and a school in Station Road, Lakenheath, to enable the county to commit resources to planning the school.
So an extraordinary meeting of the committee last night voted by six to two that it was ‘of a mind to approve the application at the present time’ but subject to consideration of planning issues currently unresolved and the outcome of further consultations.
But the decision was taken after Hermione Brown, vice-chair of Lakenheath Parish Council warned the committee: “We are surprised that the County Council is pressing for this site in full knowledge of the impacts arising from the operations at RAF Lakenheath and the outstanding environmental information.
“We consider this irresponsible and are writing to the Local Government Ombudsman to complain that the County Council is pressing for a school site that is unsuitable and puts the education of children at risk due to disturbance of jet noise and exposure to emissions.”
She said the idea of a decision to give guidance was ’premature’ as they lacked ‘critical environmental information’.
Asked by councillors if Suffolk County Council often sought such guidance, county officer Frank Stockley replied: “We’ve not had a situation like this before.”
He said site surveys they must do would cost £50,000 to £60,000 and added: “We would be asked to commit to that with no indication we would be successful.”
Cllr Ruth Bowman argued: “Money for surveys is a necessary expense. You could do these surveys and find the site isn’t suitable for other reasons.”
Cllr Chris Barker said: “We’re not used to being given a site for a school. I think it would be silly not to approve or mind to approve what’s before us because all the details have got to be worked out, then we can make the arguments for and against the final commitment.”
But Cllr Simon Cole highlighted aircraft noise and said: “This is not the ideal place for the school.”
He moved that the committee did not feel it had enough information to make a decision, but this was voted down.