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. We are contactable via email at email@example.com.
Key involvements this month
Scottish Power Renewables EA1N and EA2 windfarms – SPS has detailed our serious concerns regarding these projects in a written representation to the Planning Inspectorate. These are primarily around the choice of site at Friston for the onshore infrastructure to support the proposed offshore wind turbines, as well as the impact of the turbines themselves on the special qualities of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB. SPS has worked closely with the local campaign group Substation Action Save East Suffolk (SASES) as well as the AONB Partnership to support them in their efforts to achieve the best outcomes for the local area in terms of mitigation of the harmful impacts of these projects if they are allowed to proceed.
Scottish Power Renewables EA1 and EA2 windfarms – as part of the Public Examination process, SPS is also required to agree a statement of common ground with the developers, Scottish Power Renewables. SPS has completed this process this month, setting out the areas in which we agree with the applicant’s assessments of the impacts of the proposals and where we consider that these had been ignored or understated.
‘Planning for the Future’ – Government White Paper consultation – SPS has detailed our views on the proposed changes to the planning system to CPRE central office which collated views from around the country into one CPRE consultation response. SPS strongly believes that CPRE is best placed to represent the views of all the county branches on strategic national issues relating to planning reform as they have the capacity and resources to actively lobby ministers. Read the CPRE response here.
The government’s proposed radical reform of the planning system is ‘to streamline and modernise the planning process, bring a new focus to design and sustainability, improve the system of developer contributions to infrastructure, and ensure more land is available for development where it is needed’. However, SPS shares the concerns of many professional bodies regarding the detail of the changes which we feel will limit the scope for public involvement in the planning system and increase housing pressure in Suffolk.
Letter to MPs on Proposed Planning Reforms – SPS has written to Suffolk MPs raising our key concerns that the government’s plans, as set out in the White Paper, will reduce local democracy in the planning process and, rather than fixing the housing crisis, will lead to the delivery of unaffordable and poorly designed homes in the wrong places.
Other involvements and news
Sizewell C – less than a week after the deadline for registering as an interested party in the upcoming public examination, EDF announced that it was to submit revisions to its proposals. SPS and all other interested parties will now have to review and respond to a further round of consultation on these amendments by mid-December. The changes are reported to include making more use of rail and sea to deliver construction materials with an increase in trains and alterations to the proposed beach landing facility. Following the consultation, EDF will formally submit its revised proposals to PINS at the beginning of January which means that the Preliminary Meeting, which was due to take place in late November, will be pushed back into 2021. SPS has joined the StopSizewellC campaign group, the AONB Partnership and other local groups in writing to the Secretary of State raising serious concerns regarding the timing of EDF’s revisions and the impact on the local community.
CPRE National Conference – Andrew Fane, Chairman of SPS attended the national CPRE conference which was held virtually this year because of the pandemic. This was the first chance for the new Chairman of National CPRE, Simon Murray to address the membership en bloc. Simon was deputy Chief Exec of the National Trust and explained that he had real ambitions for CPRE and will be playing a leading role in constructive opposition to the Government’s new Planning White Paper. He explained that this had got off to a challenging start in Parliament with a considerable number of Conservative MPs expressing strong reservations about the proposals and debate evidence from CPRE mentioned at least six times in the House of Commons. CPRE is also focusing on major planning issues several of which impact Suffolk, like the algorithm that allocates massive increases in housing to prosperous green spaces whilst leaving urban brown land under reduced pressure. CPRE is also starting to allocate resource and effort to campaigns across the country that threaten rural and green areas through Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects.
Meanwhile, the SPS Director, Fiona Cairns, attended a meeting with the new chair of CPRE, Simon Murray and other county branches. The theme was to discuss “what will make your boat go faster” and allowed county branches to share ideas and practices.
Planning outcomes of interest to SPS
Great Waldingfield – SPS was very pleased to learn that a 19th century wall at Ardley House has been designated grade II by Historic England following a successful bid by the Parish Council, supported by SPS. Believed to date from the early 1800’s the wall has a characterful ‘crinkle-crankle’ form and is representative of this wall type which is particularly associated with Suffolk. SPS had been concerned about the future of the wall since a planning application for a residential development to the front of it had been submitted in 2019 which would have obscured all views of the wall from the highway. SPS objected and this application was refused by Babergh DC, but further concerns were raised when small sections of the wall collapsed earlier this year. In July SPS responded to a request from the Parish Council to support its bid to get the structure listed by writing to Historic England expressing our serious concerns over the future of this important historic structure.
Southwold Police Station Site – following the designation of the police station site as an Asset of Community Value at the request of Southwold Town Council, an outstanding application to redevelop the site for housing has been refused. SPS had supported the Town Council’s concerns and had objected to the outline application to redevelop this brownfield site for housing. The Town Council now hope that, together with the neighbouring firestation site, an outcome can be achieved that will develop the area for the benefit of the community.
Sproughton – land to the north of Burstall Lane. Permission has been granted for 105 houses.SPS had supported the parish council and neighbourhood planning groups in objecting to this proposal as the site is considerably larger than site proposed for development in the emerging Joint Local Plan. We considered that this would result in a harmful intrusion into the countryside edge of Sproughton and the current Special Landscape Area, and would fundamentally change the character of this part of Sproughton. Babergh District Council planning committee however agreed with their officer’s recommendation that any harm to the landscape was outweighed by the considerable benefits of 105 new dwellings which will include 37 affordable homes and 13 self-build properties.
Felsham – SPS had objected to a residential development of 3 large detached dwellings to the rear of the listed Six Bells Inn within the conservation area. Whilst acknowledging that a previous appeal had established that the site could accommodate two dwellings, we considered that the scale and orientation of the proposed detached dwellings would harm the character of the conservation area and called for a reduced scheme of two dwellings to be pursued. We therefore welcomed the delegated decision to refuse this application, primarily on heritage grounds, but note that decision is to be appealed.
Shadingfield – an application for intensive poultry rearing sheds has been approved. SPS and Historic England had objected to the erection of the poultry sheds within the setting of Moat Farm, a grade II* farmhouse and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The building is currently on the Suffolk Buildings at Risk list and is in a very poor condition. The Society has expressed concern that the units will result in negative impacts of noise, smell and increased traffic movements which will pose a further challenge for the prospects of Moat Farm returning to a viable use. Although a vote had been taken at a previous ESC planning committee meeting which favoured refusal, the decision was ultimately deferred to allow for a site visit. Unfortunately, at the subsequent meeting in September, the application was approved in line with the recommendation from the planning officer and the authority’s conservation officer.
East Anglian Daily Times – SPS Director’s Column, October. Should we trust an algorithm to set where new housing should be built?