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 in May

Net zero by 2050? – the government’s target will involve rapid and unprecedented change to the region’s landscape and Suffolk will inevitably play a strategic role.

It is crucial that local voices are clear, co-ordinated and compelling in their case for proper assessment of the proposals and appropriate mitigation. SPS is actively working with local stakeholders and seeks to bring together shared interests, pool knowledge and increase the weight of our arguments by adopting cohesive methods of engaging with statutory bodies.

In the last month the SPS has been involved in two major initiatives. The Director met representatives of over 20 community groups across Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex who are all currently campaigning against specific energy generation or transmission schemes that affect their communities. The delegates included Bury not Blight, Say No to Sunnica, CARE, STOPSZC, SASES and SEAS. The purpose of the meeting was to consider the formation of a regional alliance to better co-ordinate local groups and to be more effective at influencing government policy. SPS intends to participate in the any such alliance while recognising that we are a county wide body and not a single-issue group and will therefore seek to adopt a more strategic role while still contributing to the work of the alliance as appropriate and where resources allow.

The Director also met with representatives from CPRE Head Office and Suffolk County Council officers to explore and develop thinking about respective roles and responsibilities of all parties in delivering the net zero targets and what this means for Suffolk. SPS has been working closely with CPRE officers and making a case for CPRE to take the lead at national level in campaigning for best outcomes for our communities and landscapes.

National Grid upgrade to the Bramford to Twinstead line – following our response last month to the public consultation on the proposed additional 400kV pylon line, SPS has assisted the AONB Partnership in reviewing the Historic Environment chapter of National Grid’s scoping report. This outlines their approach to the assessment of the likely effects of the proposals on the historic environment.  SPS advised on additional relevant policy references and sources of information on local heritage.

Lavenham – 24 dwellings – SPS concurs with serious concerns raised by Historic England. This proposed development of a greenfield site outside the built-up boundary area of Lavenham will be immediately adjacent to the Conservation Area. The Water Street edge of the conservation area represents a last remaining link between Lavenham’s historic core and its original countryside setting. SPS has therefore objected due to the harmful impact of the proposals on the character of the conservation area, the significance of numerous listed buildings and also the landscape setting of the village. With reference to Lavenham, the Babergh Mid Suffolk Heritage and Settlement Sensitivity Assessment (2018) states that The settlement is of high value, and is of national recognition and significance. However, existing areas of backland development have resulted in harm to the significance of the settlement which is of exceptional value and further similar development should be resisted.

Copdock, 170 dwellings – SPS calls for development to follow Neighbourhood Plan.  SPS has responded to consultation on outline plans for this large development site in Copdock.  The site is being brought forward for development within the emerging Joint Local Plan.  SPS welcomed the indicated buffer areas of open space to the located close to nearby listed buildings but urged that that full consideration is given to the Masterplan as set out in the Copdock Neighbourhood Plan during reserved matters discussions. It is vital that the local planning authority recognises the importance of Neighbourhood Plans and the role they play in creating sustainable places which people are proud to call home.

SPS Neighbourhood Planning training

Monday 5 June 1pm. SPS is to deliver a web-based training for Parish Councils and Neighbourhood Planning groups either undertaking or thinking about starting a neighbourhood plan.  Ian Poole of Places4People who has helped many local communities in Suffolk with their Plans will deliver the training and SALC (Suffolk Association of Local Councils) is kindly hosting the event. 

More details and booking instructions are available on the SPS website here.

Aldeburgh Garret Era Area – End of the road for Conservation Area designation?

SPS was extremely disappointed to learn that the proposed, and long anticipated, designation of the Garret Era Area Conservation Area in Aldeburgh has been abandoned. ESDC Officers recently advised the Aldeburgh Society and Town Council that the result of a public consultation, to which there was a 35% response rate, of which 40% did not support designation, was sufficient for the council to ditch all further work on the designation.

The Garret Era Area is a notable example of a planned upper middle class suburb dating from the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and has a unique character. The local plan describes this townscape as Large houses in equally large grounds, well planted with trees, occupy a prominent position to the west of the original town. Much of the character of this area, approached through its own private road, is afforded by the trees and the spaces they occupy, rather than the buildings which, from many aspects, are well hidden by the wooded nature of the area. The Local Plan recognises that the area is vulnerable to change which could significantly affect and diminish the distinctive townscape character and cites pressures such sub-division of plots and loss of trees with no requirement for their replacement.

SPS agrees with the Aldeburgh Society that there is no requirement in law for the council to seek the overwhelming support of communities when making such designations and share their disappointment that the council has peremptorily dropped this longstanding aspiration. This populist approach to the management of the historic environment is unlikely to ensure best outcomes for our unique townscapes.

Sizewell C Examination

SPS was pleased to accept Aldeburgh Society’s invitation to comment and contribute to their presentation to the Inspectors at the Open Floor Hearings this month. In particular we suggested that they stress that Suffolk is under unprecedented pressure by energy generation and transmission and the cumulative impacts on Suffolk must not be underestimated. We also suggested some specific points regarding the impact on the AONB including refuting EDF’s assertion that the landscape and visual effects would only occur over localised sections of the AONB and Heritage Coast and that the effects would be ‘not significant’.  SPS also shared details of the latest reports on the value of the tourism industry on the economy of east Suffolk and the predicted impact of Sizewell C.

We are grateful to the Aldeburgh Society for their collaborative approach and are happy to have been able to contribute to this very important part of the DCO process.

Appeal decisions of interest

Finbars Wood, Ipswich – appeal dismissed – SPS had strongly objected to the redevelopment of a redundant forestry building to a single dwelling on a site next to an area of woodland in a residential area. SPS argued that the woodland and the site formed a valuable visual and ecological resource in an otherwise built-up area. Both are included in the Parklands Sub Area in the Ipswich Urban Characterisation Study, which advises that undeveloped space should be conserved for its visual and biodiversity value, including gardens, allotments, meadows and woodland. The site is also within the buffer zone of a ‘wildlife corridor’ around the railway line to the east. The Inspector found that the proposal would not reflect the pattern of adjacent buildings and would detract from the semi-rural qualities of the site. The design of the dwelling, parking and garden would introduce development far more suburban and intrusive than the low-key forestry building that it would replace. The SPS was pleased to have supported the local campaign group that fought this proposal with vigour and determination. This is a good outcome.

Hartest – welcome appeal decision following two judicial reviews – SPS has learnt that a proposed development of 6 dwellings at the Paddocks in Hartest was finally turned down on appeal.  This long running application was twice approved by Babergh Planning Committee against officer recommendation and was twice quashed following successful challenges by a local resident via judicial review.  SPS had supported the Neighbourhood Plan group in raising concerns regarding this scheme and had called for independent heritage and landscape reports to fully assess the level of harm of the proposals on the edge of the village.  On the third consideration by the Planning Committee, the application was refused but the developer appealed the decision.  The Inspector however, has upheld Babergh’s decision to refuse the application due to the impact on the landscape edge of the village.

Media coverage

SPS Director’s monthly column in the East Anglian Daily Times on protecting our most sensitive landscapes from inappropriate housing development within and very close to our AONBs.

Ensuring Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty remain beautiful (1 May 2021)