News and updates including the Heritage Champion Awards, and our latest campaigning on the proposed offshore windfarms, the battle to save a Felixstowe pub, and a McCarthy and Stone development in the heart of Lavenham.

SPS Heritage Champion Awards

We are currently taking nominations for our new award aimed at highlighting the work of local people and communities looking after Suffolk’s historic places and buildings.

Please take the time to consider who deserves this award in your community.

Further information and details of how to nominate your heritage hero are available here. Entries must be received by 30 September.

SPS Neighbourhood Planning Training:

This month saw SPS successfully delivering our first webinar training event. The session, which was attended by over 50 Parish Councillors was about Neighbourhood Planning – the benefits of having a Plan and how best to go about it, including the details of the support that is available to communities.

The training was delivered by Ian Poole of Places4people via SALC and we are very grateful to them both for their expertise.  The session concluded with a question-and-answer session with a panel of councillors who had completed their Neighbourhood Plan including SPS trustee Jackie Ward who had led the Stowupland Neighbourhood Plan project, as well as councillors from Kesgrave and Fressingfield.

Key planning cases:

East Anglia 1(North) and East Anglia 2 Windfarms – SPS calls for a split decision

The Examination closed at the beginning of the month after a 3-month extension. Of particular interest to SPS was a specific question by the Examining Authority to Historic England regarding the historic value of the parish boundary which is to be lost as a result of the siting of one of the substations. Historic England have finally confirmed that the historic footpath makes an important contribution to the wider setting of the grade II* Friston church by physically and visually connecting a nearby listed farmhouse. This is a significant development and one that SPS and the campaign groups are encouraged by.

SPS has made a final submission adding its voice to the local campaign groups and the MP, Dr Therese Coffey, that a split decision is the only appropriate outcome, thereby permitting the offshore elements, while withholding consent for the onshore infrastructure and calling for these to be “pathfinder” projects for the proposed offshore connection which is set to come forward post 2025.

McCarthy and Stone coming to Lavenham?

A site within the Lavenham Conservation Area is to become vacant as Lavenham Press intend to relocate their business.  We support the reuse of the site for residential development but have joined others including Historic England and many local residents in questioning whether the proposals are appropriate for this very sensitive prominent site.  The medieval core of Lavenham is one of the best preserved in the country and we strongly object to the scale and design of the proposed two storey block of retirement apartments. 

Former horsehair factory on Lavenham Press site

We have also challenged the applicant and Babergh heritage officer’s conclusion that an existing 19th century horsehair factory building on the site should be demolished.  We believe it is an important, prominent remnant of the industrial heritage of Lavenham, is functionally linked to a factory building on Water Street, dating from the 15th century, and its retention and conversion to living accommodation must be considered.

The White Horse Pub facing demolition

SPS has shown its support to the huge number of local objections to proposals to demolish the White Horse Inn in Felixstowe and replace with an uninspiring scheme comprising a convenience store and housing. In June we called for a Heritage Assessment to be provided to understand the value of the current building in its own right and its contribution to the local area.  This has now been provided but SPS has carried out a thorough assessment of the report and found it lacks important details including confirmation that the building was designed by Thomas Cotman, an important local architect of the late C19/ early C20. 

The White Horse in 1911

We understand that the local community has applied to register the pub as a community asset, and we continue to object to the planning application, urging that the building is retained.

SPS supports Heritage Officer’s objection to plans for Eye’s Vine Church

Whilst supporting the aspiration of the church to grow and thrive, SPS has objected to the planned single storey glazed link extension to the front elevation.The Vine Baptist Church is a handsome and elegant building, retaining original fenestration and high-quality brick detailing.  It is set back from the street, but its imposing character can be fully appreciated from the forecourt. It makes an important contribution to the history of the town, and is a good surviving example of a non-conformist chapel that retains all of its external architectural features.

We therefore wholeheartedly supported the view of the heritage officer that a proposed front extension will cause harm to the building and the conservation area. The extension will involve a substantial loss of historic fabric and will obscure the entire ground floor destroying the strong symmetry of the façade and significantly eroding the forecourt. We have suggested an alternative location for the proposed new café facilities within the site.

Tourism development in the AONB – how much is appropriate?

Since 2020 the government has allowed ‘pop-up’ camping sites for up to 56 days in a year including in AONBs.  The previous limit was 28 days and their visual impact or increased noise, lighting or litter can prove controversial. Some of these aspects can be controlled where a planning application comes forward for a more permanent set up and SPS has been consulted on revised plans for a campsite at Ramsholt within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB.  We were pleased to see that following earlier refusal for a larger scheme, the new plans aim to screen cars away from the camping area and that only pre-erected tents are to be used, the colour of which will be chosen to be less obvious within the landscape.

  We are acutely aware there is a conflict between maintaining the absolute tranquillity and beauty of this special landscape and allowing the area to benefit economically from visitors.  This is a difficult balance but we also support the CPRE, our sister charity, in welcoming initiatives which encourage a diverse range of visitors to enjoy our designated landscapes which should be open to all.  We will of course continue to monitor the proposals for this sensitive Ramsholt site.

CPRE hedgerow campaign

Last week CPRE launched its hedgerow campaign with a petition calling on the government to set a target to increase the hedgerow network by 40% by 2050.

In less than a week this has gained almost 20,000 signatures, which is a fantastic result. 

More information about the campaign and details on how to show your support are available here.

Changes to the Planning System:

At a ‘Building Beautiful Places’ event on 20 July, the Government announced new planning measures, through which it aims to improve local infrastructure, help the environment, champion neighbourhood design and boost health and wellbeing. The measures include a National Model Design Code – a toolkit to enable every council and community to create their own local design requirement. Guidance is provided across all aspects of new development including tree-lined streets, sustainable drainage and design to support walking and cycling. An updated planning framework (NPPF) has been published placing greater emphasis on beauty, place-making, the environment, sustainable development and underlining the importance of local design codes. There will also be an Office for Place to drive up design standards, piloting the National Model Design Code with around 20 local councils and communities.

A greater emphasis than ever before on quality and design in the planning system is welcomed. Local communities should be more involved in how they want new developments to look and feel. The changes to the NPPF set an expectation that good quality design should be approved, while poor quality should be rejected and includes a commitment to ensure that all streets are lined with trees. The word “beauty” will be specifically included in planning rules for the first time.

Meanwhile, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee has published a report on the government’s proposed planning reforms included in a 2020 White Paper and concluded that they would not speed up housebuilding or make the process cheaper. The cross-party committee of MPs has urged the government to reconsider the reforms. They are unpersuaded that the proposed zonal planning will produce a quicker, cheaper and democratic planning system, and call for further details to be provided. The removal of the right for individuals to respond to planning applications is particularly contentious and the Section 106 proposal could jeopardise the availability of affordable housing. They also argued that the government should provide an extra £125m a year for local planning departments.

Together with CPRE, we have raised strong objections to the Planning White Paper not least because it seriously undermines the democratic principles of public participation in the planning process. We hope that the growing hostility to the reforms amongst Tory MPs will result in significant amendments before the changes are brought before Parliament.

SPS in the media:

East Anglian Daily Times, Director’s column Major housebuilders must use green spaces to promote our well-being 6 July 2021

SPS’ representation covered in Concerns raised over plans for 750 homes close to Chantry Park, East Anglian Daily Times, 22 July 2021.