The answer may be found in South Norfolk District Council’s (SNDC) approach to compromises in the tensions found in supporting both economic development and preserving the natural landscape of south Norfolk.

In the Ben Burgess Ltd applications it refers to 4 years of working with SNDC in a search for a new headquarters site. If this statement is true then at some point SNDC has either agreed that the planning rules as they apply to Swainsthorpe are at least ‘flexible’ and at worst ‘can be set aside’. Ben Burgess Ltd. has invested money in acquiring the site and developing their planning applications. As a highly profitable business it’s unlikely they would have laid out as much cash and put in so much effort unless they had received a ‘green light’ or at least and an ‘amber light’ from SNDC.

One wonders why at the outset:

  • Why Ben Burgess Ltd was not advised of the presumption against developing countryside land as commercial premises?

  • Why were Ben Burgess Ltd. (apparently) not advised that the current GNLP* exercise was underway and that their proposals, having been submitted as part of the GNLP process, be paused until that process had completed?

  • Why did a process that had taken four years remain invisible to the residents of Swainsthorpe​?

  • What prompted district and county councillors to maintain publicly that they had no knowledge of the plans or of any pre-application consultation between SNDC planners and Ben Burgess Ltd, were they genuinely ‘out of the loop’ or being economic with the truth?

  • How come, officials from Norfolk County Highways have had discussions about a roundabout to provide access to the proposed site for 6 months and yet a member of the Highways Committee still maintains total ignorance of even the existence of the project?

  • Why was a four hour exhibition in the village Church, on the first week of the school summer holidays, considered to constitute public consultation?

  • Why has SNDC failed to consult with the village, in any way, to establish the likely reaction to the Ben Burgess Ltd proposals?

  • Why was the Parish Council left in the dark throughout this four year period and why were they not consulted before the formal application process had begun?

    These and many other questions are vexing the villagers of Swainsthorpe. Until a more transparent approach to planning generally and the Ben Burgess Ltd proposal in particular is adopted then villagers (and residents across South Norfolk) are bound to be asking their own questions such as: what’s the purpose of planning laws and who is the planning process really for? Sometimes, it’s a funny old world!!

*Greater Norwich Development Plan

SS logo