Twice a year we publish ‘Suffolk View’ – the campaigning publication of the Suffolk Preservation Society. All SPS members receive a copy of the magazine and pdf copies are available to read here:
As the country emerges tentatively from the restrictions of the last 18 months, we find ourselves having to adapt to meet to the realities of a world which will never be quite the same again.
One significant change on the horizon is the retirement of our chairman, Andrew Fane. Andrew and I joined the Society at the same time in December 2012.
Under his chairmanship the Society has increased its professional capacity and strengthened its reputation as a mature and reliable voice in Suffolk’s planning community.
We have learnt over the last year how important nature and the environment are for our health and wellbeing. How climate change is making us face the need for our homes to be designed in a way that is more energy efficient, better connected, less reliant on fossil fuels and more adaptable to changing patterns in how we live and work.
The last 12 months have shown us that there is a future that relies less on commuting, more on digital connectivity, a proper understanding of the value of being in nature and even a rediscovery from our fathers and grandfathers of a love of growing our own food. We have learnt that we must adapt and it is time for those delivering the homes of the future to do the same. Our trustee Ralph Carpenter, considers nature-based solutions in housing delivery in his article at page 1.
Welcome to Suffolk View: we hope that you enjoy our new look. The ongoing pandemic has brought significant changes to our lives in recent months, ones that were unimaginable at the beginning of the year.
The pandemic has also impacted upon the progress of major energy applications that will affect so many communities in Suffolk. Despite a pause through the spring and summer, the autumn sees the commencement of the Scottish Power Renewables and EDF Energy’s proposals to Examination. Our chairman, Andrew Fane, considers the challenges that these major schemes present for community groups in his column.
Housing Design – is the Tide Turning? You will be familiar with the SPS mantra for high quality design in Suffolk’s new housing schemes. This message was embodied in the SPS #SuffolkBeauty campaign and threaded through its Manifesto, launched to celebrate its 90th Anniversary last year. Not only does good design make the inevitable thousands of new homes more palatable to their communities, but spirits are depressed by the bland and characterless and uplifted by beauty and a strong ‘sense of place’. SPS is encouraged by the fact that lots of other, much grander organisations are saying the same thing…..
It was while driving back from the coast one late summer evening recently that I came upon a field of shocked wheat in the delightful village of Earl Soham. The evening sun was reflecting off the golden stooks in a small field bookended by some of Suffolk’s most charming vernacular cottages. It was an idyllic scene capturing a rural tradition that has characterised our county for centuries. It put me in mind of The Shire in JRR Tolkein’s fictional Middle Earth described in Lord of the Rings and other works. For the few who are unfamiliar with this work, The Shire refers to….
The seventeenth century mathematician, Blaise Pascal, wrote in his Pensées, “In each action we must look beyond the action at our past, present, and future state, and at others whom it affects, and see the relations of all those things. And then we shall be very cautious.”
And this fundamental truth is as pertinent in 2019 as it was in 1657 when written. The point is that much is at risk if we do not carefully consider the complex inter-relationship of what we do today, the implications for our past and consequences for our future. It is the consequences of our actions, and more precisely the unintended consequences of our actions, that pose the biggest threat…
This summer saw changes at the top of the SPS – Lord Marlesford stood down as our President after twenty-one years of dedicated service and we now welcome Geoffrey Probert as our new President, see pages 5 & 26. Geoffrey will be known to many of you – a former High Sherriff of Suffolk, a businessman and a farmer, and also a SPS Trustee. He brings to the role immense knowledge of the County, its people and its values. We are delighted that he has accepted the role and I, and the Board of Trustees, very much look forward to continuing to work with him to promote the charitable objects of the Society…
With great excitement the SPS welcomes Michael Gove’s new 25 year Environment Plan with its commitment to “Do more: harm less”, setting out the Government’s action plan to help the natural world regain and retain good health. It calls for an approach to agriculture, forestry, landuse and fi shing that puts the environment fi rst. Its aim is to achieve, in no particular order, the use of resources more sustainably, enhancing beauty, heritage, well-being, engagement with nature, clean air and water, a thriving natural environment and wildlife, and reducing the risks from fl ooding and drought.
Some of you will be aware that the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, has recently announced a new formula for assessing housing need. This has been met with mixed feelings as many agree that we urgently need clarity around this issue to give certainty to beleaguered planning authorities who are constantly challenged by developers about how many houses are needed.
In the last six months we have been working hard to deliver our charitable objects of protecting and promoting the special qualities of Suffolk. For example, we combined our skills and capacity with key volunteers, local campaign groups and local councils when responding to the Sizewell C Phase II consultation, see page 10, and we welcome these groups as new members. We have also worked with our colleagues in CPRE when responding to the Housing White Paper on how the housing crisis can be solved, see page 8. This Spring we organised a very successful heritage planning training course and an archaeology training…
Did you know that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) only uses the word eight times in 47 pages of planning guidance, twice in relation to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) excluding the three mentioned in the titles, and three times in relation to the intrinsic beauty of the countryside, one of which includes the heritage coast? The NPPF predominantly refers to issues of design and amenity and avoids woolly concepts such as beauty.
The new law will enable the Government to meet its target of one million new homes by 2020. Crucially, it will allow the Government to step in where local authorities have not put a Local Plan in place by 2017, automatic planning permission will be granted on brownfield sites, office to residential conversions will no longer require planning permission, the delivery of Starter Homes will be promoted, the Right to Buy programme will be extended and planning reforms introduced to support self-build schemes.
Our first SPS CIO Annual General Meeting was held at the Guildhall in Lavenham in June and was very well supported by both our old and new friends – the end of another full and effective financial year – and we firmly established the new CIO’s working arrangements.