The SPS team is continuing to scrutinise planning matters across the county as we primarily work from home. The following is an overview of our work and involvements in the past month including links to our representations.
Heritage Champion Awards 2021:
We launched SPS’s Heritage Champion Awards on June 21 – Suffolk Day. This is a new award aimed at highlighting the work of local people and communities looking after Suffolk’s historic places and buildings. These are the very heritage champions that we seek to recognise, promote and congratulate and we invite you to consider who deserves this award in your community.
Make your nomination now!
Commercial solar farms – a hot topic:
SPS Position on Commercial Solar:
There is an ever increasing number of proposed commercial solar schemes in the county centred around the substations at Bramford in the south and Burwell in the west. In response, we have followed the example of neighbouring CPRE branches in drafting a position statement on commercial solar farms. This sets out the views of the Society when responding to such applications in the county. The draft statement can be read here.
National Policy Statements:
SPS Director also met with CPRE‘s lead consultant on renewables to discuss the revision of the National Policy Statements on energy. These policy documents are over 10 years old and are no longer fit for purpose. The technology for commercial solar farms did not exist 10 years ago and therefore there is no policy framework covering these kinds of schemes. The government has also made clear that the process in delivering large scale energy projects is too slow and often ends up in the courts subject to Judicial Review. The updated and revised National Policy Statements will go out to public consultation in early July. We will work closely with CPRE in preparing its response to, what many anticipate, will be a far more permissive policy framework to deliver the government’s target of carbon net zero by 2050.
Sunnica Solar Farm:
SPS also met with representatives of the Say No to Sunnica campaign group together with the chairman of CPRE Cambridgeshire. Say No to Sunnica are seeking the support of groups on either side of the county border. They have raised a fighting fund and appointed a landscape consultant. SPS has agreed to work with the group and in particular review and contribute, as appropriate, to the landscape evidence that the group has commissioned.
Breach Farm, Landswade – 49MW commercial solar farm. SPS made representations on a 78 hectare solar farm that has been submitted to West Suffolk Council just 2km away from the Sunnica scheme which is to be submitted within the coming weeks. We recognise the climate emergency and the need for a significant increase in renewables. However we made a strong objection to this proposal on the grounds of cumulative impacts of this scheme in conjunction with existing and consented schemes along the B1102 corridor between Burwell substation and Mildenhall.
Other key areas of involvement:
SPS has objected to the demolition of the historic buildings in Carr Street to make way for a new primary school. The buildings are locally listed by Ipswich Borough Council and their local plan calls for the facades of the buildings to be retained. However indications suggest that permission will be given for their total demolition due to the overriding need for a new school in the town centre. We have called for improvements to the design of the new build which fails to respond to the surrounding area. We have also supported the Ipswich Society in urging for the retention of the iconic lettering including the ‘Each for All and All for Each’ slogan and a mosaic mural for which there are currently no plans for reuse or relocation.
It is disappointing that an application for a site being brought forward in the draft Babergh Mid Suffolk Joint Local Plan was submitted in advance of the Examination of the Local Plan. Our primary concern is that the applicant has understated the heritage impact of the proposals on Red House Farm (grade II listed) and Chantry Park a grade II Registered Park and Garden and the gatehouse, listed grade II. These heritage assets once sat in rural isolation and the proposals will engulf them in the suburban sprawl of Ipswich into the parish of Sproughton. We accept that the site will deliver a large number of much needed houses for the district but have called for changes to the proposals to safeguard the setting of these important historic buildings.
We have supported the principle of 54 houses being brought forward in the Conservation Area on a site allocated in the Neighbourhood Plan. However we have raised concerns over the design, materials and boundary treatments which do not respond to the qualities of Debenham’s historic townscape as one of the best-preserved conservation areas in the district. They are from a standardised palette of design and do not reflect the character and identity of the site’s context and we think that a much higher calibre of design is called for.
Outcomes of interest to SPS:
Fressingfield Neighbourhood Plan Prevails
We are delighted that on the 24 June Mid Suffolk Planning Committee unanimously refused two Fressingfield applications for 27 dwellings, and 21 dwellings and a shop. This followed a previous officer recommendation for approval contrary to the adopted Neighbourhood Plan arguing that the emerging Local Plan took precedence. SPS wrote to the planning officer highlighting the importance of the Neighbourhood Plan and arguing that under the Localism Act 2011 once a neighbourhood plan is passed it becomes part of the development plan for the local area and forms part of the basis for decision-making. SPS, together with the local campaign group SAFE, successfully made the case that planning applications must be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. The status of a neighbourhood plan as part of the development plan is unaffected by the absence of a Local Plan. We are delighted with this outcome and congratulate SAFE on all their hard work.
Felixstowe, Deben High School redevelopment – approval welcomed
SPS supported East Suffolk Council’s redevelopment of the Deben High School site to include 45 apartments and 16 houses with a very high proportion of affordable housing. This brownfield site is in a highly sustainable location and plans include the retention of the 1930’s assembly hall to be used as a community building. SPS also supported the high-quality contemporary design which will create a distinct sense of place and incorporates community open spaces and a number of sustainable energy measures. This is potentially an exemplar scheme and we will monitor it with interest. The plans must be delivered in their entirety if the quality and the spirit of the development are to be successfully achieved. This includes the materials, sustainable energy measures and the provision and continued management of the landscaped areas, .