Key involvements this month

Commercial solar farms in West Suffolk – On 18 November Sunnica submitted a Development Consent Order application to the Planning Inspector for a 2600 acre solar farm over a number of sites close to Freckenham and in East Cambs. This has been expected for some time and we will hear whether the application will be accepted for examination within 28 days.

Meanwhile, at Landswade an amended layout has been submitted for a separate application for a 192 acre site.  In June SPS strongly recommended that the proposed layout of the solar panels be amended to set them back from the perimeter and that buffer strips of grasses and wild flowers be provided, as well as increased hedge planting/ infilling and tree planting.  The amended layout which includes hedge gap filling and woodland planting was therefore welcomed. However, due to the loss of a significant amount of prime agricultural land and the cumulative impacts of extant, consented and emerging solar farm proposals in this area including from Sunnica, we continue to argue that the proposals will result in a fundamental shift in landscape character and should therefore be refused.

Reydon, Broadside Park Farm – a campsite in the AONB.  An amended application for 9 timber camping pods and a 30-pitch camping area has been submitted, which is asignificant reduction in scale from a previous withdrawn application. We are also pleased that washroom facilities for the campsite are now proposed to be housed in a converted farm building rather than a purpose-built structure, but we have recommended an alternative location for the pods within the site to reduce their visual impact on the wider landscape.

The Forge, RedlingfieldAn application for the conversion of a 19th century forge to a holiday let has been submitted. It is agreed that the building, which is at the centre of the village, is of sufficient architectural, historic and social interest to be considered as a non-designated heritage asset. Whilst we are supportive of the principal of securing a sustainable, long-term use, we raised concerns about the extent of historic fabric and character that was to be lost. SPS called for a comprehensive condition survey and additional information on the details of the proposed scheme of conversion to inform the decision-making process, together with a recommendation that the views of the inhouse heritage team be sought.

Pipps Ford Lock – during renovation by the River Gipping Trust

Pipps Ford, Coddenham – an agricultural and building training centre. SPS was consulted on proposals for a site close to, and with access from, the A14/ A140.  Having visited the site, SPS submitted a strong objection to this change to the use of a sloping agricultural field beside the River Gipping which would include a 30m X 20m training centre and associated parking at the highest point of the site, and equipment including scaffold towers, large construction and farming vehicles as well as cranes.  We have argued that this will be to the detriment of the wider area, which despite the A14/ A140 intersection close by, retains the serene, remote character of the area which is arguably highly sensitive to further degradation. Moreover, the site forms part of the wider setting of listed 16th century Pipps Ford farmhouse and associated farm buildings, some of which are identified as non-designated heritage assets.  Although partially screened, the proposed buildings, equipment and additional noise, lighting and heavy vehicular movements will impact on how the heritage assets are experienced and SPS has called for further assessment of this.

Public consultations

Long Melford Neighbourhood Plan

SPS was consulted on the draft pre-submission Neighbourhood Plan for Long Melford. This focuses on a positive approach to shaping future growth and housing in the village and the important objective of maintaining a separation between Long Melford and Sudbury.  SPS applauded the efforts and time taken by volunteers to produce the document. However, the NP process is an ongoing iterative one and therefore SPS made suggestions on how the very special heritage and landscape setting of Long Melford could be further safeguarded through additional assessment, characterisation and policies in a future amended version of the plan.

Government Planning Policy Consultations on National Policy Statements and Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects.

Both consultations closed in November. As reported in the October bulletin, SPS worked with CPRE who submitted one response on behalf of the 40 separate charities that form the umbrella group. SPS responded to CPRE’s call for evidence for both consultations and has commented specifically on the proposed amendment to National Policy Statements on matters relating to the heritage and landscape. We also submitted case studies of its experience of how the NSIP process has and is currently working in Suffolk.

Consultation on Enduring Regime and Multi-Purpose Interconnectors. 

SPS also responded to the government consultation regarding the importance of a strategic plan for the delivery of offshore energy projects.  This consultation forms part of the BEIS Offshore Transmission Network Review and SPS’s responses can be read here.

Babergh Mid Suffolk Local Plan – an update

The Examination of the Babergh Mid Suffolk local plan, which started in the summer but was soon abandoned due to difficulties relating to the Examination taking place virtually, restarted at the end of September. However, in October this was also paused to allow the Councils to undertake further work. The Council has now written to the Inspector setting out the scope of the proposed additional work which includes the Spatial Distribution of Housing and the Housing Site Selection Process. This involves a review of around 250 discounted sites in the three top tiers of the settlement hierarchy which were previously discounted for development; specialist evidence updates to follow the initial review of discounted sites; and the carrying out of sustainability appraisals on suitable sites. It is estimated that this will another 12 months after which the Councils will be able to confirm their position regarding the justification for the spatial distribution pattern and allocation of sites in the Plan which currently concentrates growth along the A14 corridor. More details are available on the Babergh Mid Suffolk website.

SPS in the media

East Anglian Daily Times, Director’s column 24 November 2021:

Planning must change for us to tackle the climate crisis

East Anglian Daily Times, Director’s column 3 November 2021:

Self-effacing volunteers should not be left to preserve our heritage alone

Bury Free Press 2 November 2021:

Champions win recognition for achievements