Suffolk Heritage Champion Awards announced

Nominations for our 2021 awards closed on 30 September. Thirteen award winners have been identified over two categories – Lifetime contribution to heritage and Building conservation project.  Award winners have been notified and have been invited to receive their awards from Sir Laurie Magnus, Chairman of Historic England at a reception to be held at The Orangery, Sibton Park in May.

Details of all our winners can be found here.

SPS AGM 2021

Don’t forget that our AGM is to be held on Friday 5 November at 7.00pm in Little Hall, Lavenham (registration from 6.30pm). All SPS/ CPRE Members are encouraged to attend either in person or via a virtual link. Please confirm your attendance or request a virtual link by contacting the office on Details of the agenda and papers are available here.

Key involvements this month 

Map of 3 proposed solar farms at Bramford courtesy of CARE Suffolk. ENSO proposals shown in red, EDF in orange and Statkraft in purple. Existing energy infrastructure including the Bramford substation site is shown in yellow (green indicates existing businesses and dwellings).

EDF Solar Farm, Bramford on a 250-acre greenfield site, much of which is best and most versatile agricultural land.  SPS has strongly objected to the second of three commercial scaled solar farms Bramford close to the substation – see map above. SPS considers that commercial energy generation should preferably be located on brownfield sites or on lower grade land. Furthermore, the cumulative impacts of the other nearby proposed schemes (ENSO and Statkraft) will harm landscape character and the amenity of users of the countryside. We have challenged the applicant’s conclusions that a nearby listed building will not be harmed by the proposals and questioned the adequacy of the proposed mitigation.

Monastery Hill, Dunwich. SPS has commented on an application to demolish an existing property within the Dunwich Conservation Area and replace with a contemporary dwelling.  Concerns have been raised by local people about the loss of the existing building which is now known as Bay View but was reportedly purpose designed and built as a lifeboat facility known as the ‘Rocket Shed‘.  SPS has raised concerns regarding the impact of the design and scale on the character of the conservation area and has requested that greater assessment of this and the impact on important views be sought.

The Old Post Office, Lowestoft has been empty since 2018 and is owned by East Suffolk Council. Its renovation repairs will be funded through the Lowestoft Heritage Action Zone, financed by Historic England and East Suffolk Council, and delivered in partnership with Lowestoft Town Council and East Suffolk Building Preservation Trust. SPS has welcomed the re-roofing in Welsh slate and the comprehensive schedule of fenestration repairs of this important grade II listed building in the heart of the Lowestoft Conservation Area. However, we have reiterated our concern that despite the programme of repairs to the external fabric, it is imperative that a long-term sustainable use for the heritage asset is found if its future is to be secured.

image: East Suffolk Council

Glemsford Factory site. Additional information was provided in support of plans for the former Avent factory site at Glemsford. SPS is supportive of proposals which will deliver employment opportunities on this site but has serious concerns regarding the impact of the significant increase in built form on the landscape of this deeply rural area. The latest submissions show no evidence of attempts to mitigate these impacts through a reduction in scale or breaking up of the mass of the building. Therefore, whilst strongly supporting alternative business uses for this site, we continue to object to the scale of industrial intensification.  

Sizewell C

The Examination of the Development Consent Order closed on 14 October. At the final deadline for submissions a further 650 documents were submitted, many by the applicant. By the end of the process in excess of 4000 documents were submitted to the Planning Inspectorate, more than double that of the Hinkley C Examination, which bears testimony to the complexity and controversial nature of the proposals at Sizewell.

SPS remains very concerned by the number of outstanding issues that were presented by the applicant late in the process, including the proposed desalination plant as it is uncertain that fresh water can be delivered to the site, involving a significant number of additional daily HGV movements, as well as visual and ecological impacts. A letter, signed by our Acting Chair, Robert Townshend was sent to all Suffolk MPs and Lords highlighting the Society’s concerns regarding the outstanding level of information and the high potential for environmental devastation as a result of the scheme. The letter can be read in full here.

Government planning policy consultations on energy projects

National Policy Statements (NPS): With the publication of the Energy White Paper in December 2020, the Government announced a review of the energy NPS to ensure that they reflect the policies set out in the Energy White Paper and to ensure a planning policy framework fit to support the infrastructure required for the transition to net zero. The department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has now published a consultation on amendments. There are five key changes: 

1. There is no place for coal and large-scale oil energy-generation infrastructure

2. Large-scale solar generation (50MW+) is specifically listed for the first time

3. Small “modular” nuclear reactors are supported, though no specific policies are included 

4. Support for unnamed future “novel” technologies

5. Support for energy from waste projects is caveated with over-capacity warning 

The revised overarching policy statement, EN-1 notes that the need for onshore reinforcement works will be substantial, referring to forecasts which highlight that the transmission network will require substantial reinforcement in East Anglia to handle increased power flows from offshore wind generation. It is also worth noting that the NPS on nuclear has not been reviewed at this time.

Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects: The Government is undertaking a comprehensive end-to-end review of the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Planning (NSIP) process and all its interactions. They have asked for feedback from all those who engage with the NSIP regime on what they see as the main issues affecting each principal stage of the process, and what potential solutions might be deployed to remedy these.

In particular it is looking to find ways to enhance and accelerate the NSIP process and to achieve greater co-ordination with government department, other consenting and regulatory process an of interest to SPS, the potential limits in the capacity or capability of NSIP applicants, interested parties and other participants

SPS is working on both these consultation with CPRE which is preparing one response on behalf of the 40 separate county charities. SPS has responded to the CPRE 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 have also submitted case studies of its experience of how the NSIP process has and is currently working in Suffolk. This will be fed into a single overarching response from the national body.

SPS responds to Nautilus interconnector consultation

SPS has responded to a first consultation by National Grid into a proposed interconnector which will create a new 1,400 MW electricity link between the UK and Belgium. The project will require cabling and a converter station offshore as well as underground cabling works and a converter station onshore in East Suffolk. It has been anticipated for some time that a decision from the Secretary of State to approve the substation site at Friston, to support East Anglia 1(N) and East Anglia 2 windfarms, would likely result in more industrialisation of the countryside around Friston to support further projects. As expected, the Nautilus project is proceeding under the assumption that Friston substation site will be given the go ahead and National Grid’s consultation invited comments on 5 potential sites around Friston for a converter station to feed into the National Grid substation. It also, however, sought views on whether this infrastructure would be better co-located within the AONB but next to existing industrial areas around Sizewell.

image: National Grid

The design for the converter station has not yet been finalised but a typical operational footprint for a converter station covers an area of five hectares (12 acres) with a maximum height of 24 metres.

Parham solar farm approved

A 49.9MW solar farm adjoining the existing solar farm on the former RAF airfield has been approved by East Suffolk Council.  The new development will cover six agricultural fields amounting to around 74 hectares.

SPS had supported the use of brownfield land and the generation of renewable energy and therefore supported this scheme in principle. However, we had raised concerns about the northern most parcel of land.  This is located beyond the area which had been badly affected during the 1940s airfield development and post war period, on a surviving historic landscape close to heritage assets, and SPS had called for this portion of the site to be removed from the proposals.

However, the council’s Landscape Officer advised that whilst there will be localised adverse landscape and visual effects arising from the development, the effects were not sufficient to warrant reasons for refusal.