At the Parish Meeting of the 17th May, the Council was asked by a member of the public to engage in further communication about ongoing developments and the future use of Morley Hill.
The point was made at the meeting on the 17th by the Council that it has previously made comment about Morley Hill in Council meetings and in the minutes of these meetings. The Council has also as a Consultee has commented on the Planning Application submitted to NNDC by Norfolk Homes and full details are available to the public on the NNDC Planning Portal. (See NNDC planning portal, PF/20/2656 Land East of 45 Snafell Park Sheringham.)
To this end, we are republishing the statement that was made about the Councils position about Morley Hill.
The statement made at the Parish Meeting on the 17th does reflect the Councils current view but it was considered worthwhile to add the following comments by way of a preface to the statement:
Again, we consider it necessary to reiterate that the land is privately owned by Norfolk Homes and is not under Council ownership.
Regarding the request made at the meeting on the 17th for public consultation about the future use of the land, that is something that would be best undertaken once it is clear that Morley Hill will come under STC ownership, or once the transaction is done. We will also note that the current Council view of the future use of Morley Hill is based in part on an earlier public consultation exercise and is reflected in our Town Plan.
The current view of the Council regarding Morley Hill, shared at the public meeting of the 17th May:
Answer to Extraordinary Parish Meeting, Monday 17th May 2021; Question 4, Decisions and actions by Sheringham Town Council in relation to Morley Hill Sheringham. To hear statements and receive oral answers to questions on the item
By way of background, Morley Hill is an area of 5.5 hectares situated to the south of Sheringham that is private land currently owned by property developers, Norfolk Homes Ltd. For the avoidance of doubt, although some believe it to be the case, Morley Hill has never been under ownership of Sheringham Town Council. In July 2015, based on a 106 Agreement of the Town and Country Planning Act (imposed as a condition of the developers Planning Permission), it was anticipated that Morley Hill would be taken over by Sheringham Town Council.
Recognising it is an area of community significance, is in the Norfolk Coast AONB, is designated in the Local Plan as Open Space and had important natural features that needed to be preserved, the Council’s 2018 Town Plan set out aspirations to make the land accessible to the community for a variety of uses.
In July 2019 Norfolk Homes formally offered to transfer ownership of Morley Hill to Sheringham Town Council, requiring the Council to complete the transfer of land to it within 60 days.
However, it was about this time that the Council became aware of concerns about the state of Morley Hill and subsequently of unauthorised development works. Those works included the dumping of a large amount of building spoil infilling the northerly valley, fenland bog habitat and pond area with a possible diversion of a watercourse and then, subsequently attempted remediation works that had in the Council’s opinion further destroyed the historic ecology and natural landscape of a large part of the site.
Furthermore, since and arguably due to, the unapproved development works, residents of parts Snaefell Park and De Morley Garth have experienced extensive flooding, all of which needs to be addressed. It was the action of STC in contacting NNDC Planning and Enforcement that resulted in the Enforcement Team obliging Norfolk Homes to submit a detailed Planning Application (PF/20/2656) as to the remediation of the site following the unauthorised dumping of builders spoil and how the flood risk will be mitigated and managed.
The Council, as a Consultee has commented on the Application and full details are available to the public on the NNDC Planning Portal. The Council awaits the progress, discussions and ultimate outcome of this Application.
Additionally, as part of that Application, Norfolk Homes have submitted a Management Plan for Morley Hill that the Council considers onerous, expensive and unworkable and not ‘sympathetic’ to Morley Hill as the envisaged site would have been as largely natural and ‘self-managed’ land. The Council’s comments on the Application cover this as well.
Finally, despite the 106 Agreement referring to footpath/maintenance vehicular access, there is currently no provision for satisfactory vehicular access to facilitate larger maintenance works as required in the proposed Site Management Plan. Norfolk Homes have to date said they have no intention to aid the provision of suitable vehicular access.
To this end, in July 2019 the Council instructed solicitors to act in respect of the anticipated legal transfer of Morley Hill. Until there is a satisfactory resolution to the unauthorised development works that respects the natural beauty and ecological value of the site, a fully implemented solution to address the flood risk, a workable Management Plan and suitable vehicular access to the site, and an acceptable revised 106 Agreement as referred to in the Planning Application by Norfolk Homes, the Council considers it will not be able to realise the aspirations set out in the 2018 Town Plan of making Morley Hill accessible to our community without risk of excessive recurring costs to the ratepayers of the town.