Eco-commune plans look to have failed

AN eco-commune on a village common between Beccles and Bungay looks unlikely to ever be built after the plans were rejected by councillors and hundreds of people opposed them.

An eco-commune on a common between Beccles and Bungay looks unlikely ever to be built after the plans were rejected by councillors and hundreds of people opposed them.

An action group set up to fight the plans for 10 straw-bale homes at Ilketshall St Andrew gathered 330 signatures on a petition.

The scheme, from the not-for-profit Common Ground Co-operative, would have been unique in the region. The eco-friendly homes would have had a communal laundry and crèche, and its residents would have grown their own food and travelled by bicycle.

But local people were outraged by the idea of development on greenfield land and said most of the would-be residents were not from the village.

The development would have added nearly a tenth to the village population.

Local councillor David Ritchie said: "We live in a free society where people are free to follow alternative lifestyles if they wish, but this can be done in other ways, like a council house in Norwich or a conventional house.

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"Would this be fair in a village where a new house for a son or daughter or grandmother is not allowed?"

At a Waveney District Council devel-opment control committee meeting, planning officer Tom Woolley said: "I think everyone has given the application a thorough hearing, but despite this there is strong local opposition and at least two fundamental planning objections which cannot be overcome."

Chris Harrison, from the Orchard Farm Fields Action Group, said: "It is not low-cost housing for local

people. The impact on the villagers cannot be under-stated."

After the meeting, Richard Jackson, from the co-operative, said: "We are disappointed but not surprised by the decision. We believe that our proposal would have avoided the problems that the local plan seeks to avoid. We understand local fears but are confid-ent they would have been unfounded.

"We look forward to continued dialogue with councillors and planners to build on our proposal's acknowledged strengths. After all, climate change is not going to go away."