Jenrick reverses Javid decision and allows 400-home Newmarket scheme despite racing industry fears

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has given the green light for 400 homes on a stud farm outside Newmarket in Suffolk, after ruling that the scheme would not undermine the town's internationally important horse racing industry - reversing a decision taken by his predecessor.

Newmarket: minister finds housing scheme would have no adverse impact on horseracing industry
Newmarket: minister finds housing scheme would have no adverse impact on horseracing industry

In a decision letter issued this week, Jenrick allowed an appeal by Lord Derby for the scheme at Hatchfield Farm, Fordham Road.

Jenrick’s predecessor Sajid Javid had refused permission for the scheme in August 2016 after it had been called in two years previously.

However this decision was subsequently quashed in the High Court and remitted back to the secretary of state to be redetermined, triggering a re-opening of the planning inquiry, which took place in May and June last year.

According to the decision letter, the scheme was opposed by industry group the Newmarket Horsemen’s Group on the grounds that the increased congestion resulting from the new homes would drive trainers away from the town, which is an internationally significant centre for breeding and training of thoroughbred race horses.

Inspector Richard Schofield said that various witnesses attested to Newmarket’s cluster of horse racing facilities being "second to none" that probably could not be replicated elsewhere.

Lord Derby countered with figures suggesting that the scheme’s proposed level of affordable housing, comprising 30 per cent of the scheme, would be a boost to Newmarket’s workforce by providing low cost homes for junior staff.

Jenrick agreed with the inspector that granting planning permission for the Hatchfield Farm application would be "unlikely" to prove a "tipping point" for the local horse racing industry, noting that it has continued to prosper during recent years.

Schofield ruled that there is no "real possibility" that the application proposal would threaten the "long-term" viability of Newmarket’s horse racing industry, which the local plan states could justify refusal for new development.

Jenrick agreed with the inspector’s conclusion that the "limited increase in journey times" which the new housing would cause on the local road network would not harm the operations of the horse racing industry and that there was "no evidence" trainers would move out of Newmarket or that owners would remove their horses from the town if planning permission was granted for this scheme.

And the secretary of state said that the applicant’s proposals to upgrade the junction of the A14/A142 junction attracted "significant weight" in favour of the application.

Jenrick also wrote that the adoption in October by local planning authority West Suffolk Council of a new site allocations local plan, which earmarks the farm for development and redraws the settlement boundary of Newmarket to include the site, also counted in the development’s favour.

The letter said that the council is meeting its five year housing land supply requirement, meaning there is "no immediate need" for housing from the scheme.

But the secretary of state agreed with the inspector that Newmarket is one of the "most sustainable locations" in West Suffolk, meaning that the proposal is in line with local planning policy stating such places are where the "highest proportion" of new development should be targeted.

The decision letter said: "Given that the proposal accords with the development plan and the development plan is up to date, a decision to approve should be made without delay".

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