Controversial retirement home plan hopes to bring £3m to market town economy

Churchill Retirement Living plans for Diss development

73 retirement homes planned for Diss given the green light by the planning inspectorate - Credit: Churchill Retirement Living

Plans for 73 retirement homes in a Norfolk market town will go ahead against the local council's wishes, after the authority lost the power to decide on the scheme.

An application to develop 58 retirement apartments and 15 cottages on a site south of the Thatchers Needle pub in Diss was submitted in February by Churchill Retirement Living (CRL).  

But South Norfolk Council (SNC) did not examine the proposals, forcing the developers to appeal to the planning inspector. 

At the time, SNC said they lacked key information from the applicant before they could make a final recommendation.

With the application in the hands of the planning inspectorate, SNC no longer had the authority to make a decision.

Despite this, the plans were brought before SNC's planning committee in September who made an 'advisory' vote against the development.

Concerns about overdevelopment of the site and if there were enough affordable homes were raised in their objections.

Retirement cottages planned for Diss

The plans include 15 retirement cottages - Credit: Churchill Retirement Living

In her decision, published earlier this month, planning inspector Susan Hunt acknowledged the development went against an SNC site-specific policy - which says the site should feature retail, leisure and office use - but said several factors went in favour of the development.

She said: "I give significant weight to the delivery of specialist housing for older people. 

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"I also give significant weight to optimum use of previously developed land, the accessible location of the development which is in easy reach of the shops and services of the town, and the boost to housing land supply.”  

She added: “I also give significant weight to the economic benefits which would arise through increased spending by the occupants who are more likely to shop locally.” 

South Norfolk Council's Development committee have rejected plans for 70 retirement homes in Diss

The plans were heard by South Norfolk Council's planning committee in September - Credit: Archant

Ms Hunt also said there would be moderate benefit from on-site open space and biodiversity enhancements. 

A series of conditions were imposed on the development, including making sure the land - which previously had an industrial use - was safe from contamination, replacing damaged trees and a restriction for residents to be over 60 years old. 

A CRL spokesman said the development will bring £3m to the local economy and support more than 130 jobs before and after construction. 

Stuart Goodwill, managing director of Churchill’s planning consultancy, added it was a positive result and they were looking forward to starting work as soon as possible.

He said: "Retirement housing is the most effective form of residential development for generating local economic growth, supporting local jobs, and increasing high street spend as we look to recover from the pandemic."