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. We are contactable via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despite a very short period of only 9 days to respond, SPS responded to a consultation from Taylor Wimpey on a draft design code for the forthcoming scheme for 1150 dwellings on a site to the North of Sudbury. SPS has objected to the proposed standardised layouts and treatments which do not provide innovative or interesting solutions, nor promote contemporary, imaginative or sustainable design. It offers limited landscaping and the proposed open space is relegated to the margins of the development site. SPS considers that the proposals will deliver a standardised large housing estate development rather than the exemplar sustainable community which was promised at the outline application stage. We strongly recommended therefore that the draft document is put before the Suffolk Design Review Panel for independent assessment.
SPS is disappointed that a planning application for the installation of site wide infrastructure, including the spine road, sustainable drainage scheme, infrastructure, landscaping and ecological enhancements has subsequently been lodged before the consultation period had elapsed and it appears that some of the drawings had been submitted in advance of the consultation period. This disregard for the views of the local community is very concerning and the SPS has been contacted by a number of affected community groups who feel angry and let down by the applicant and Babergh district council.
An application for 18 houses went before planning committee recommending approval contrary to the recently adopted Neighbourhood Plan. SPS wrote to Chairman of the planning committee prior to the committee meeting to express our concern about the insufficient weight given by officers to adopted NP which is a statutory document and forms part of the Development Plan.
Following our letter, we learn that at the planning committee meeting a proposal to refuse the application contrary to the officer’s recommendation on the grounds that the proposals were contrary to the adopted Neighbourhood Plan was deferred. A final decision will be taken once a legal opinion has been sought as the planning committee were advised by officers that a Neighbourhood Plan has limited weight if the Local Plan is not in place or up to date. SPS is of the opinion that this undermines the purposes of Neighbourhood Planning and the democratic process. However, we await the outcome of the legal opinion and continue to support the local Neighbourhood Plan group. We await the next steps in this application.
SPS objected to the proposal for 50 dwellings on an historically important site in the centre of Newmarket that formed part of the Queensbury Stables. Part of the site is within the conservation area, but more significantly the Local Plan had identified the site for enabling development to fund repairs for the listed and derelict Queensbury Stables. They are currently on the buildings at risk register and in a very poor structural condition and without a use. The SPS is fundamentally opposed to the scheme on the grounds that the application site specifically excluded the derelict buildings, contrary to adopted policy, thereby removing the possibility of funding the repair of these important heritage assets if the scheme is approved.
SPS has written in support of the Neighbourhood Plan Group who are objecting to the proposal to develop a greenfield site adjoining the church. The community has decided through the Neighbourhood Plan that the site is an important open space. The Plan has been through Examination and is awaiting Referendum, which has been delayed as result of the Covid19 pandemic. The SPS are happy to add their weight to the community’s case that this site should be preserved and hope that the local planning authority will refuse the application.
SPS has objected to an application for a site outside the village boundary as it would harm the setting of 2 listed cottages. Views across the site are also highlighted within the Thorndon Neighbourhood Plan as important views which should be retained. The Neighbourhood Plan has been through external Examination and is due to go to referendum. This is postponed until next year due to the pandemic and therefore SPS considers that the Plan should be given significant weight in planning decisions.
Other involvements and news:
Housing Numbers – SPS welcomes an announcement from the Government that it will make changes to its housing need formula, as proposed in the Planning White Paper. This follows criticism from MPs of all parties and pressure from many bodies, including CPRE, after it became clear that the government’s proposed method of calculating housing need would lead to a disproportionate number of new houses in rural areas and the south of the country and fewer in urban and northern areas. While the 300,000 target remains, it is thought the focus will shift towards building more homes in the North and Midlands, and in urban areas or city centres. SPS had raised its serious concerns around this issue in the local media in October: East Anglian Daily Times – Should we trust an algorithm to set where new housing should be built?
East Anglia 1(N) and East Anglia 2 off shore windfarms – The Planning Inspectorate has invited SPS to attend virtual sessions of the Public Inquiry which relate to the site selection process and impact of the onshore substation sites at Friston. SPS Chairman, Andrew Fane, has agreed to attend these sessions in early December.
Sunnica Solar Farm – SPS has met with the local campaign group to discuss the main impacts of the proposed 2800 acre solar installation across areas of West Suffolk and East Cambridgeshire. If consented this will be the largest solar farm in Europe. SPS will respond to the statutory consultation which closes on 18 December.
Planning outcomes of interest to SPS
Walberswick – 2 dwellings – refused. SPS had joined the parish council and PCC in objecting to this application for two detached dwellings within a large garden adjacent to the churchyard of grade 1 listed St Andrew’s Church. The garden contributes both visually and to the sense of peace and tranquillity experienced within the churchyard; the two proposed large dwellings included firstfloor balconies which would overlook the churchyard and result in harm to the setting of the church and character and appearance of the conservation area. The application was refused as the harm to the setting of the church and the character of the conservation area would far outweigh the benefit of an additional dwelling.
East Anglian Daily Times – SPS Director’s Column, November. We’re all for renewable energy but we will challenge unsightly schemes.