Daughter says she’s ‘never heard such rubbish excuses’ after her father is refused permission for eco lodge homes

PUBLISHED: 09:31 01 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:07 03 November 2017

Site of the proposed pair of eco lodge homes at The Butts, Soham

Site of the proposed pair of eco lodge homes at The Butts, Soham

Archant

The daughter of the man refused permission to build a retirement home in Soham for himself and his best friend says she has “never heard such rubbish excuses” for rejecting the proposals.

Outline of the design by Robert Negus for his eco lodge proposal for The Butts, SohamOutline of the design by Robert Negus for his eco lodge proposal for The Butts, Soham

Philippa Negus, now living in America, said she was astonished East Cambs Council rejected her father’s application for land the family own opposite their home of 33 years in The Butts.

“If the area where he wants to build is too far away from anything to be lived in then maybe I should help my parents sue for being sold their present home 33 years ago,” she said.

“Maybe they should go after the cost of relocation and damages for being made to live away from local amenities. All that and 33 years of unconvinced life sure will add up.”

She was speaking just weeks after the council planning committee rejected her father’s application to build two eco lodges on a 1.1 acre strip of land he owns opposite his home.

Noise impact slide presented to East Cambs planning committee by case officers for The Butts eco lodge proposalNoise impact slide presented to East Cambs planning committee by case officers for The Butts eco lodge proposal

The council argued there were issues with noise and sustainability but Mr Negus is now challenging the decision through an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

In a meeting with case officer Oli Haydon following the rejection, Mr Negus again drew comparisons with permission given this summer for Mayor James Palmer to build a home in the countryside just 50 metres away from his piece of land.

Mr Negus said if the house being built by Mayor Palmer was sustainable, why wasn’t his – “we both have cars”.

In a taped conversation with Mr Negus, released by the council, Mr Haydon said he wasn’t the case officer on Mayor Palmer’s application.

Robert Negus on the 1.1 acre he owns opposite his home in The Butts, Soham. He's been refused permission for two eco log style cabin retirement homes.Robert Negus on the 1.1 acre he owns opposite his home in The Butts, Soham. He's been refused permission for two eco log style cabin retirement homes.

He said it was approved under legislation that states that “if it is an exemplary eco design and can demonstrate that” then it could be approved. It was the officer’s opinion and the planning manager’s opinion that it was and the committee agreed.

But Mr Negus protested that “you told me it needed to be a grand design- I said I didn’t want a grand design but somewhere to live”.

Mr Negus reminded Mr Haydon of a conversation about the TV series Grand Design “and you said you wanted flowing lines, arches, curves and to be architecturally unique”.

Showing Mr Haydon an image of the house proposed for Mayor Palmer he asked “In what way is that architecturally unique with flowing lines and arches?”

Illustration by Robert Negus to show planners what his proposed eco log cabins at Soham would look like. He was turned down.Illustration by Robert Negus to show planners what his proposed eco log cabins at Soham would look like. He was turned down.

Mr Haydon implored Mr Negus to read the reports accompanying the application by Mayor Palmer but said that it would be unlikely to add much weight to any appeal lodged by him.

He said Mayor Palmer’s application was approved “through a different pathway” and he offered to send Mr Negus the copy of the reports to support his appeal.

Mr Negus, who is now preparing the appeal, challenged Mr Haydon about why he had not specifically told the committee his own application was for personal use and not as suggested by some for a holiday let.

Mr Haydon said he had told councillors it was not for holiday lets and therefore the implication would be it was residential.

“The only thing I remember specifically saying it was not holiday lets

But Mr Negus said he had been to the planning office the day before to ensure councillors knew definitely it was for residential use “and what I can’t understand is why you didn’t say that at the meeting?” he told Mr Haydon.

Mr Negus also queried the issue of noise and asked why councillors had been shown a train going by and why it was on a loop, in other words showing the same train four times.

“It was quite obvious it was on a loop,” said Mr Haydon.

Both men discussed the issue of noise with Mr Haydon pointing out that the reports put forward by Mr Negus were insufficient. He told him he should have submitted a properly researched acoustics report with evidence to support his contention of it not being an issue. Mr Haydon said the information provided by Mr Negus was “too raw” and it needed an acoustician to interpret it. What was submitted was inadequate.

Mr Negus said: “It would have been nice for someone to tell me that”.

Mr Haydon said the information submitted was sufficient to get it validated but was insufficient to show to councillors. Time was of the essence since he was pushing to get it through committee for a decision.

He told Mr Negus that the outcome of an appeal was uncertain but some decisions by the council made on sustainability grounds had been overturned on appeal.

“All I can do is to help you prepare a case,” Mr Haydon said. He said collating the evidence and submitting an appeal was “your best shot”.

Mr Negus’ daughter Philippa remains convinced her family has not been treated fairly.

She said it was nonsense to continue to talk about that part of Soham being in an unsustainable location “since it has never been a problem for anyone else in that area including rural farmer the neighbour across the way on Horse Fen”.

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