A worrying time for Suffolk’s heritage?

New plans to demolish White Cottages submitted

SPS is extremely disappointed that permission for the total demolition and replacement of the White Cottages is once again being sought by Framlingham College. SPS has submitted a strong letter of objection to the case officer setting out clear and sound reasons why this building should not be granted consent for demolition.

The property is prominently located within the Framlingham Conservation Area, is a simple late Georgian cottage and is an increasingly rare regional survival of a timber framed, weatherboarded vernacular building.

In recent years SPS has raised concerns with the College and the Council about the condition of the building and supported a 2019 consent for the sensitive scheme of repair and re-use.

Disappointingly the consented work was not carried out and the building condition deteriorated further. In January 2022 we urged the local authority to take action within its powers to require the owner to deal with the poor state of the building. The response to our request was that the council preferred to continue negotiations with the owners which has, presumably, led to the current application for its demolition.

SPS has written to the Chair of Governors at Framlingham College asking for a meeting with us and the East Suffolk Building Preservation Trust to explore possible alternatives. This has been declined pending a decision on the application. We have also written to Chris Bally, Chief Executive at East Suffolk Council, to raise our concerns about the fate of this building. He has responded that The Chief Executive has no role to play in the determination of planning applications and cannot overturn or review decisions.  However he has read our submission in relation to the planning application and assures us that this will be taken into consideration.

It is our view that the loss of the heritage asset should be the last resort and proposals should aim to retain the significance of the heritage asset rather than recreate something similar but modern. We have also suggested that if the repair of the property is not economically viable the option to transfer the ownership to a suitable conservation body to restore should be explored.

We await the council’s decision on the College’s application for the demolition of this valued piece of the county’s humble heritage.

The Dower House at Nowton – West Suffolk planners agree to demolition

SPS, The Victorian Society and the Council for British Archaeology all submitted strong objections to the demolition of Dower House, on both heritage and sustainability grounds.

It was therefore very disappointing that the total demolition of this Victorian three storey Gothic house and its replacement with a new dwelling has been approved.

The Dower House in Nowton Park forms part of a group, including The Stables and The Lodge, all located within the Breckey Ley Parkland. The Council confirmed that it had sufficient interest to be considered a non-designated heritage asset, but did not value it highly enough to warrant refusal of the application.

We also consider that using the fact that the replacement development will incorporate sustainability measures as justification to demolish an existing building is contrary to sound conservation philosophy and runs counter to best practice.

Most built environment professionals now accept that retention and upgrading of a traditional building is a far more sustainable approach.

On a more positive note, Baroness Andrews, on behalf of the Victorian Society, has tabled an amendment to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill which would make it illegal for any building to be demolished without planning permission.

This is partly driven by the knowledge that demolishing and rebuilding is inherently an unsustainable approach and we should instead be carefully retrofitting our existing buildings.

In the middle of both climate and housing emergencies, we must focus on re-using our existing buildings

Joe O’Donnell, director of the Victorian Society

Retrofit Training Workshop

SPS believes strongly that our county’s outstanding traditional building stock must adapt to climate change and the challenge of achieving net zero. Everyone who is responsible for a part of our magnificent heritage, however small, needs to understand how to make buildings more resilient as the climate changes. Keeping old buildings warm in the winter and cool in the summer has never been more relevant as we all struggle with the cost of living crisis.

SPS is hosting a full day workshop in conjunction with SPAB and Historic England on retrofitting old buildings on 22 November 2023. This will take place at Haughley Barns and will be led by Marianne Suhr and Roger Hunt – authors of Old House Eco Handbook.

Our Energy Efficiency and Old Buildings workshop is open to all – please see our events page for details. We look forward to seeing you there.

National Grid review to include offshore options

SPS welcomes the announcement by National Grid Electricity System Operator of a review of transmission networks in the East of England which is to include the consideration of “offshore routes” for electricity transmission in East Anglia.

The East Anglia GREEN project – which will result in 180km of new pylons from Norfolk, through Suffolk and Essex to London – is currently National Grid’s sole proposal to reinforce and balance the electricity grid.

SPS is concerned about the impact of such a pylon line on the county’s countryside and has been calling for a more meaningful consultation which considers a comprehensive range of costed options, including more undergrounding as well as an offshore grid, which lands on a brownfield site, and does not impact unspoilt rural communities.

Many local MPs and campaigners have been frustrated by National Grid’s focus on pylons and overhead lines as the solution to grid capacity, rather than undersea power links off the coast. Offshore options are being pursued at considerable cost in other parts of the UK (e.g. the Eastern Link from Scotland to the north of England).

We hope that this review will allow communities affected by new grid infrastructure proposals the chance to see a comprehensive and independent cost-benefit analysis of offshore vs onshore options. We call for all other options – both on and offshore – to be genuinely explored including increased undergrounding in the areas adjoining the Dedham Vale AONB. We also urge that all community and landscape impacts are properly assessed and central to the review.

The results of the review are expected to be published in the summer.

Planning for New Energy Infrastructure

Meanwhile, the long awaited consultation into the government’s revised National Policy Statements for energy has begun. The aim is to speed up planning approvals for the energy infrastructure needed to power homes and businesses with low carbon technologies, such as solar power and offshore wind.  They include a commitment to off-shore wind as a ‘critical national priority’ and a presumption for power lines to be placed overhead in areas outside designated landscape areas such as AONBs.

This is accompanied by a linked consultation which consider issues of community compensation associated with the delivery of nationally significant infrastructure. Government is considering a range of options including one off payments to affected individuals.  We are still digesting the implications of these consultations and will respond before the deadline of 25 May.

SPS in the media

East Anglian Daily Times – 15 March 2023 – SPS Director’s monthly opinion column

May the 4th be with you as our county goes to the polls: East Anglian Daily Times

Upcoming Events

Please see our events page for a full list of our 2023 events. The next two events scheduled are:

Heritage-led regeneration in action

A vintage bus tour and exclusive access to completed projects

Thursday 20 April10 am – 2 pm

Join us to discover the fascinating heritage projects underway in Lowestoft’s Heritage Action Zones.

Our day will start at the East Anglian Transport Museum for a talk by HAZ Project Manager Rebecca Styles. We will travel by vintage bus to visit several heritage projects before returning to the museum where lunch will be available to purchase from the cafe.

More details and booking available here.

Note: there will be some walking necessary between sites in the town centre up to 0.6 miles in total.

An afternoon at Ickworth House and gardens with tea at the Ickworth Hotel

Monday 15 May3pm – 6pm

We are delighted to be able to offer a bespoke visit to Ickworth House by kind invitation of the National Trust.

The afternoon will begin with a talk by the General Manager on the history of the house and the current restoration work of the estate including issues relating to sustainability. We will follow this with the choice of a tour of the art collection, led by the Curator of Collections, or a tour of the pleasure gardens, led by the Rangers.

We will end with afternoon tea in the library at the Ickworth Hotel overlooking the beautiful gardens.

More details and booking available here.

We are delighted that our sponsor for this event is Reeman Dansie, Auctioneer.