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.

Key involvements this month:

Image: Care Suffolk. The ENSO scheme is marked in red

ENSO Solar Farm – first of 3 potential solar farms around Bramford. SPS is aware of three separate solar farms coming forward around the Bramford substation.  From different developers, each is just below the threshold to be determined as a nationally significant infrastructure project but cumulatively have the potential to seriously impact extensive areas of countryside around villages including Flowton, Somersham, Burstall and Bramford. Whilst SPS supports the use of renewable energy to meet current and future energy needs, we have responded to the first 49.9MW application from ENSO urging that the cumulative effects of the separate applications are given full consideration.   We have highlighted the loss of high-grade agricultural land; the landscape and visual impacts, the impacts upon the local footpath network; the incomplete assessment of impacts on heritage assets; and the lack of local public support. 

Glemsford Factory Site – new use for old Avent site? The baby bottle manufacturing plant which was vacated in 2020 looks set for a new use as a cocoa production plant.  A planning application has been submitted to facilitate the changes required which include the introduction of new buildings of up to 40m in height into a rural landscape.  SPS has welcomed the new use which will safeguard some of the jobs which were lost when Avent moved out, but have called for close scrutiny of the impact of the new buildings on the landscape and careful choice of materials to break up their built form.

Ipswich Garden Suburb – preapplication consultation request from Mersea Homes. SPS was consulted by the developer on outline plans for Red House area of the Ipswich Garden Suburb site.  SPS is fully supportive of the plans which include residential, primary school and local facilities and welcomed the planned retention of existing mature trees on the site.  It is disappointing however that some locally listed farm buildings within the site are now in separate ownership and therefore are not currently included in the outline plans.  The masterplan for the Ipswich Garden Suburb had identified that these buildings could be incorporated and would give a distinct character to this neighbourhood.

Woodbridge, 42 Chapel Street – new plans to demolish 19th century cottage. A previous application for the demolition and replacement of this unlisted agricultural workers dwelling in the Woodbridge Conservation Area was withdrawn. A new application, supported by a further structural engineer’s report and a revised smaller scheme has now been submitted. SPS notes the changes to the scheme but remains unpersuaded that the lack of proper maintenance and repair over the last ten years should justify the loss of this significant building in the Woodbridge’s Conservation Area. SPS called for an independent review of the engineer’s report which concluded that the extent of repair and the low-grade nature of this simple structure meant that it was not viable to restore.

42 Chapel Street, now derelict

East Bergholt, Red Lion Inn – seven 2 bedroom terrace dwellings, garden office building and store. The Red Lion is listed grade II, within the East Bergholt Conservation Area and falls within the designated landscape of the Dedham Vale AONB. The site also forms part of the wider setting of a number of nearby heritage assets. SPS recognises the need for more affordable and smaller open-market properties, and supports small incremental growth of villages. However, the site coverage, scale and style of the proposal is considered inappropriate and will result in a level of harm to the setting of the adjacent listed buildings. The proposals result in an urban feel that is totally at odds with the character and grain of this picturesque historic village, typified by large houses in substantial plots. SPS called for a much smaller scheme, both in terms of the number of units and the height of the ridgeline, and suggested that a scheme reflecting the character of a small range of traditional ancillary outbuildings could be made to work.

Outcomes of interest to SPS:

Belle Vue House, Sudbury – future looks assured. SPS is pleased to report that the future of Belle Vue House a much loved locally listed building at the heart of Belle Vue Park, has finally been secured. The Babergh Mid Suffolk council-owned land comprising of Belle Vue House, the car park and the northern part of the old swimming pool site, was openly marketed between December 2020 and February 2021, with six bids received from both community and commercial organisations. The successful bid seeks to retain and restore Belle Vue House into private living accommodation together with a new retirement living complex. The new entrance to the park will provide residents and visitors with a welcoming and fully accessible public space and an improved connection to the town and will be complemented by a new café and new toilets. The land being sold does not include Belle Vue Park, which will remain as a valuable green asset for the town to enjoy for generations to come.

Bury St Edmunds – demolition and redevelopment of the Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre to retail and 48 residential units – Appeal dismissed – a good result for heritage. West Suffolk had refused the application on grounds of residential amenity and impacts upon the character and appearance of the Bury St Edmunds Town Centre Conservation Area and the setting of nearby Listed Buildings, with particular regard to height, size and mass. The Bury Society had put up a strong defence, appearing at the appeal, and SPS had objected to numerous iterations of the scheme. The Inspector in her decision opined that the design treatment would unduly interrupt the important character of these streets and eliminate the existing successful transitioning role of the appeal site…. notwithstanding some positive design elements of the scheme, the appeal proposal would not sufficiently and successfully assimilate with its important heritage rich surroundings.

Fressingfield, Land off Post Mill, 18 dwellings and associated works – a victory for Neighbourhood Planning. In November officers recommended approval despite the site not being allocated within the adopted Fressingfield Neighbourhood Plan (NP). Councillors were, however, minded to refuse the application but were advised by senior officers that they could not refuse the application as the NP did not carry sufficient weight and the presumption in favour of development applied. The matter was deferred for Counsel’s opinion which confirmed that the adopted NP did in fact carry significant weight.  The application was heard again on 3 March and the officers this time revised their recommendation and the application proceeded to be refused. We welcome this outcome as SPS has been a longstanding critic of Mid Suffolk’s officers’ persistent failure to apply the appropriate weight to an adopted NP. This will no doubt be hugely welcomed by those other affected communities who have prepared plans only to have them essentially ignored by officers.

Shadingfield, Intensive Poultry Units – Decision quashed in the High Court . East Suffolk previously granted planning permission for an intensive chicken farm on land within the setting of a listed Suffolk farmhouse. This decision has now been overturned by the High Court after a judge found that the authority had failed to adequately consider the impacts of odours produced by the required manure spreading. SPS is pleased that the judgement highlighted the council’s duty to consider the impacts on residential amenity of nearby residents. SPS had argued that Moat farm, a grade II* building on the Buildings at Risk register, would be further prejudiced if this permission was granted.

Conservative Club and Victoria Hall – a sad day for Sudbury’s humble heritage. We are sad to report the loss of three locally listed buildings in the heart of the Sudbury Conservation Area. SPS, together with the council’s own specialist heritage advisors and the Sudbury Society all argued strongly that the case for demolition of the Victoria Hall and the Conservative Club and parts of one of Sudbury’s surviving silk mills had not been convincingly made. The consensus of the consultees was that the buildings should be restored and brought back into use. However, this month councillors chose to ignore their own planning officer’s recommendation and grant permission. They considered that new buildings would enhance the conservation area and this outweighed the case for preservation. SPS finds this creative interpretation of the Planning Acts surprising and we await the issue of the reason for refusal with interest.

Higham Park – equestrian facilities and garden extension within the AONB – piecemeal development refused. An application for a large stable building, menage and garden extension within the Dedham Vale has been refused. This follows a number of previous applications for extensions, swimming pool and outbuildings associated with this large country mansion built in 2003 which sits prominently on the valley side.  SPS had called for the landscape and visual impacts on the Dedham Vale AONB to be properly assessed and for the cumulative impact of the various alterations to the site to be considered.   The latest application was refused and SPS welcomes the reason given within the decision notice that a single application including all elements built, consented and proposed would not have been supported in this sensitive prominent location, and therefore the piecemeal approach should not be either. 

Also of interest:

Reydon, St Felix School – judicial review of consent for new sports pitches being considered. Permission was been granted for new school playing fields – a condition on the granting of consent for over 70 new dwellings on a current rugby pitch owned by the school. The new facilities are within the AONB, on a county wildlife site and attracted many objections.  SPS has recently learnt that the local campaign group RAGE is considering pursuing a judicial review of the decision, and we will watch this case with interest.

Wickham Market – The grade 2 listed George Inn was severely damaged by a fire in 2013. Prior to the fire the George was thought to date to the eighteenth century, but afterwards it was revealed that parts might date to the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. Due to this heritage significance and risk to the building The George was added to the Suffolk County Historic Buildings at Risk Register on January 2014.  In 2016 SPS objected to plans to demolish and redevelopment of the inn, which is in the heart of the Wickham Market Conservation Area, calling instead for a conservative repair, retention of historic fabric and conversion to bring the building back into a viable long-term use.

The demolition plans were refused and The George Community Pub Ltd, a Community Benefit Society established in 2016 and embarked upon a £1.6 million project to restore the historic building and transform it into a vibrant hub in the local community. The group’s latest news on the project is available here.


East Anglian Daily Times – SPS Director’s column 6 March – We just want to stand up for Suffolk – both our residents and our heritage

East Anglian Daily Times – SPS Director’s column 29 March – How we can open up Suffolk’s countryside to more people