News and updates including details of energy schemes currently impacting the county; heritage concerns in Walberswick and Ipswich; and design concerns in Pin Mill.

This month National Grid has launched its consultation exercise on Nautilus, an Interconnector. The government has also commenced a six week consultation on the revised National Energy Policy Statements. A third solar farm at Bramford has also been launched with a scoping opinion being submitted and Anglian Water has announced a new strategic pipeline from Bury St Edmunds to Colchester.

In the light of these and the increasing number of infrastructure related schemes that affect Suffolk we have collated a list of all the schemes that are currently in the public domain – available here.

SPS is actively engaged in supporting communities, local councils and all interested parties affected by these schemes and consultations. As far as our resources allow, we are committed to working for the best outcomes of Suffolk and where appropriate to make a case for proportionate levels of mitigation.

Key SPS involvements

Somersham – ENSO Solar Farm on a 250-acre greenfield site, much of which is best and most versatile agricultural land.  SPS has strongly objected to the first of three commercial scaled solar farms between Somersham, Flowton and Burstall close to the Bramford substation. SPS has objected on the grounds that commercial energy generation should be restricted to brownfield sites, furthermore, the landscape and visual impacts of 3m high oscillating panels and a Battery Energy Storage System will impact on users of the countryside. Furthermore, we have challenged the applicant’s conclusions that the setting of grade I listed Flowton church and other nearby listed buildings, will not be harmed by the proposals.

St Mary’s Church, Flowton

Ipswich, St Joseph’s College, Ipswichan application for 35 houses in the parkland pleasure grounds of Goldrood House, a small Regency House. The housing scheme is presented as enabling development benefiting the listed building, but SPS considers it will substantially destroy the surviving open space which is an important part of the setting of Goldrood House. Despite arguments by the applicant that the layout of the housing scheme will create vistas towards the house, SPS has urged that the scheme be amended to reduce the extent of the housing. However, Ipswich Borough Council are unable to demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply and therefore the tilted balance in favour of development is engaged.

Erwarton Hall, conversion of barns to create 7 dwellings – an update – negotiations on this important case continue with Historic England, SPS and the AONB Partnership, amongst many others, strongly objecting to the suburbanising impacts of the scheme on the character of the AONB and setting of the grade I Erwarton gatehouse. SPS has submitted comments on all stages of the scheme and will be making further representations when it goes to committee, which is thought to be next month.

By the river at Pin Mill

Pin Mill modest bungalow to be replaced with contemporary two storey 5-bedroom and 3-bedroom dwellings.  The site is at the end of a private road from Pin Mill Road, within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and immediately adjacent to Pin Mill Conservation Area.  SPS has objected to the scheme design as due to the elevated position of the site, and their scale, the new dwellings will be highly visible both from Pin Mill and the river.  A large amount of glazing and balconies are proposed and we consider that light spill will have a detrimental impact on the special qualities of the AONB. Views from the Conservation Area and the residential amenity of nearby properties will also be negatively impacted.

Walberswick – alterations to historic 1950’s bungalow – SPS has objected to alterations including a two-storey extension to a simple bungalow known as Paules Fenn. It was designed by the twentieth century architect, Felix Walter, author of the 1955 seminal work Fifty Modern Bungalows, in which this house featured. It was designed for the artist Clifford Russell (1919-2003) who first came to Suffolk during army training for D-Day in World War Two. The design responded to his needs for disabled access with level thresholds and wider than average doorways to facilitate wheelchair access, and being set out on one level. Interestingly, Russell designed the Town Sign, made to celebrate the Festival of Britain in 1951. He also painted inn signs for Adnams and, in 1955, with Nicholas Loftus, founded the society that later became the Southwold Art Circle, which thrives to this day. Whilst the bungalow is modest in scale, it is part of the oeuvre of a nationally recognised architect for a local figure that made a strong contribution to the local community. As such, in the opinion of the Society, it satisfies the council’s criteria for the building to be identified as a non-designated heritage asset being of architectural as well as a historical, social and communal value and SPS has urged that the damaging proposals are resisted.

Sizewell C – an update

While the examination process began back in April, a series of Issue Specific Hearings have taken place in September relating to issues including landscape, visual impact, design, heritage and community matters. As well as the Hearings, the Examination process has involved a gruelling ten rounds of questions from the Inspectors and re consultation on amended documents for Interested Parties.  In particular the locally affected parish councils and campaigning organisations have worked tirelessly to represent the interests of local people and to bring to the attention of the Inspector the implications of the proposals on their communities. Once the examination process is concluded in mid-October, the Inspector will make a recommendation to government as to whether the nuclear plant should go ahead or not. SPS expects a decision from the Secretary of State decision in mid-2022. 

Outcomes of interest

Ipswich Co-op buildings – locally listed buildings to be lost.

The Co-op buildings on Carr Street are locally listed by Ipswich Borough Council and their local plan calls for the facades of the buildings to be retained.  However despite this recognition, IBC has granted permission for their total demolition due to the need for a new school in the town centre. SPS had urged for the retention of the buildings as well as calling for improvements to the design of the new build.  We also supported the Ipswich Society in urging for the retention of the iconic lettering including the ‘One for All and All for One’ slogan and a 1960’s mosaic mural. A disappointing outcome.

Ramsholt – campsite application refused again.

SPS objected to a previous application for a campsite within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB due to  the impacts on the landscape and the introduction of lighting and human activity into this remote tranquil location. We were pleased that this was refused and that when new plans were submitted the number of tents was reduced, vehicles would be screened and pre-erected tents were to be used, the colour of which would be less obvious within the landscape.  Therefore, whilst mindful of the conflict between maintaining the area’s tranquility and beauty and allowing it to benefit economically from visitors, SPS had no objections to the landscape and heritage impacts of the amended scheme.  We have now learned however that the amended scheme has also been refused – due to highways objections regarding the number of vehicles using the single-track access road and potential habitat loss.

Chilton Industrial Estate – erection of a standby gas fired energy generation facility refused after a narrow committee vote.

The application was recommended for approval by the planning officer but the planning committee refused the scheme as unsustainable development due to the environmental harm caused by the burning of a fossil fuel that would increase carbon emissions in the locality contrary to local plan policies. SPS welcomes the decision as, although we had acknowledged the industrial character of the area, we had raised concerns regarding the impact on the adjacent land which has been earmarked as an extension to the churchyard of Chilton Church, calling for effective acoustic screening. 

Eye, alterations to chapel refused. SPS are pleased to report that the application for extension and alterations to the Vine Baptist Church at Eye has been refused on the grounds of harm to character and appearance of the conservation area and a non-designated heritage asset. SPS strongly objected to the alterations that would have seen the removal of a large part of the front elevation of the chapel and a substantial front extension to provide a café.

Media coverage:

Private Eye: SPS’s objection to the residential development at Erwarton Hall is covered in Nooks and Crannies column.

East Anglian Daily Times, Director’s August column: Our manifesto pledge for much better housing design is slowly paying off

East Anglian Daily Times, Director’s September column: What’s in a name? The relevance of ‘Preservation’ in today’s climate

Suffolk Magazine, September article about Suffolk’s humble heritage – it’s unlisted heritage buildings under threat