Burstall solar farm – Mid Suffolk pulls out of defending refusal of commercial solar

SPS is sad to report the latest curious development which has seen the withdrawal of Mid Suffolk District Council in defending at appeal its refusal of a commercial solar scheme. Three quarters of the scheme falls within the adjoining district of Babergh who approved the scheme earlier this year.

CARE Suffolk, the local campaign group has been working in response to the series of commercial solar farms for the best outcomes for nearby villages and have organised themselves as a Rule 6 party to oppose the application at appeal.

However, since the Green Party took power in Mid Suffolk in May it appears that there has been a change of political heart, leading to the decision to refuse the application at a forthcoming public inquiry. This leaves the local campaigners to fight on alone. More information can be found here

Judicial Review challenge to Sizewell C dismissed

On 22 June Mr Justice Holgate handed down judgment on  TASC’s (Together Against Sizewell C) bid to challenge the Secretary of State’s 2022 decision to authorise the construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning of the Sizewell C nuclear power station.

The Judge dismissed the claim in its entirety, refusing permission for judicial review on all seven grounds. Grounds 1-3 related to potable water, ground 4 Habitats Regulations and grounds 5, 6 and 7 were in respect of alleged errors in findings relating to the contribution of Sizewell C to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the likely date during decommissioning by which the site would be clear of nuclear material, and whether the power station’s operational emissions would have a significant effect on the UK’s ability to meet its climate change obligations. The Judge made a further finding that Grounds 3 to 7 were totally without merit. The full decision can be read here

National Grid transmission project updates

East Anglia GREEN – National Grid’s proposed new 180km pylon line between Norwich and Tilbury – has been renamed. It is now to be known as ‘Norwich to Tilbury’ and is part of the ‘Great Grid Upgrade’. This week, a non-statutory consultation into the project was launched. Comments are to be submitted by 21 August and details are available here. Meanwhile we have until the 19 July to register with the Planning Inspectorate as an Interested Party in the Bramford to Twinstead Examination.

Hedgerow Heroes project

We are delighted to announce that our phase 3 funding bid for Hedgerow Heroes has been successful.

This means that, working together, SPS, the Stour Valley Farmer Cluster and AONB Partnership volunteers will be able to deliver a further tranche of hedge planting, coppicing and restoration in the Dedham Vale.

We are also delighted to report that CPRE’s hedgerow campaign, which funded the project in Suffolk, won a top 2023 Charity Award, the Daniel Phelan Award for Outstanding Achievement. CPRE’s hedgerow campaign wins top prize at 2023 Charity Awards – CPRE

In July 2021, CPRE launched a campaign calling for the government to set a national target to increase the hedgerow network by 40% by 2050, as recommended by the Climate Change Committee. Just 18 months later the government introduced the first ever hedgerow target in its 25-year environment plan.

‘The Charity Award is wonderful recognition of the importance of CPRE’s work to protect what is, in its full expanse, our largest and most connected nature reserve. But our campaign is not over – we will continue to champion the national target and hold the government to account for it. Across the country the network of county CPRE groups will be planting and restoring hedgerows and engaging local communities with their care.’

Tom Fyans, CPRE Campaigns Manager

Find out more about SPS’s hedgerow work

Weighing public benefit vs more housing in Thurston

This month SPS objected to two applications for even more housing in Thurston. These are on separate sites, but are integrally linked as they are being put forward by the same applicant.

Both sites are unallocated, outside of the village envelope and contrary to the Neighbourhood Plan. The first application, for 5 dwellings, will harm the setting of an important Arts and Crafts grade II* listed Manor Farmhouse, one of the only Philip Webb buildings in Suffolk, and will extend Thurston further into the surrounding countryside. The second application site, for 8 executive homes, is in use as allotments, is biodiverse rich and no information has been provided on the architectural or historic significance on two dwellings which will be demolished.

The applicant is offering to provide allotments, amounting to in excess of 3.66 acres, also land for a community orchard and the freehold of ten acres of public open space.  These public benefits must be given appropriate weight in the planning balance. Nevertheless, SPS understands that some of these benefits are already available to residents on long term leases and therefore has questioned whether the benefits outweigh the environmental harm to landscape and heritage assets.

The risk posed by National Development Management Policies – can government impose top-down planning policies on local communities without challenge?

CPRE and SPS is urging the government to ensure that local democracy is protected when it comes to planning decisions.

There are two clauses in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which is currently going through Parliament that concern us. They both relate to how National Development Management Policies (NDMPS) will take precedence over local and neighbourhood plans. These clauses currently prioritise NDMPs over local plans, with no guarantees on public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny. This means that the government can impose top-down planning policies on local communities without challenge.

We are therefore joining our sister charity, the Countryside Charity, CPRE and urgently calling for amendments to the Bill to ensure local people are heard and that policies are open to scrutiny. That’s why we’ve written to all Suffolk MPs asking them to sign a closed letter to the Secretary of State calling for an amendment to clause 86 and 87 of the Levelling Up Bill. More information on this is available here.

SPS Events

Retrofit workshop – book now

We are now taking bookings for our Autumn retrofit training event in partnership with Historic England and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Building to be held on November 22nd at Haughley Park Barn.

Summer garden party and AGM

On 16 June, SPS members, staff and trustees gathered in the warm summer sunshine for a garden party in the charming Little Hall gardens at Lavenham.

Everyone welcomed the opportunity to meet up, ask questions, reminisce on past achievements, and discuss forthcoming projects and priorities in such beautiful surroundings.

The evening included a short AGM to cover necessary business.

SPS in the media

East Anglian Daily Times SPS Director’s monthly opinion piece on retrofitting our historic buildings being the truly green way forward – 21 June 2023.

We shouldn’t be demolishing our humble heritage – retrofit it!