This month’s bulletin includes heritage news from around the county including Lowestoft fishing heritage saved from demolition; fight to save decorative gates in Woodbridge; SPS support Walpole Old Chapel funding bids; updates on housing proposals in the historic villages of Boxford and Lavenham.

Whapload Road, historic buildings associated with the fishing trade worthy of retention and repair

Lowestoft – historic buildings to be saved

SPS was very pleased to learn that significant amendments have been made to plans to redevelop a site within the North Lowestoft Conservation Area.  We had previously submitted a strong objection to plans which included the demolition of two buildings which are considered to be important remnants of the town’s industrial heritage. SPS is very supportive of plans to bring this derelict site back into use, and is aware of the degraded condition of the buildings, but this is a sensitive site, adjacent to grade II listed Fish House which is one of the oldest surviving structures associated with the Lowestoft fishing industry.  We have now provided further comment on the amended plans which aim to retain and restore the two historic ranges, urging that the most appropriate materials be incorporated into the scheme to safeguard the character and significance of this group of buildings.

Lavenham – plans for residential development

In 2023 SPS objected to outline plans for 6 dwellings to the north of Lavenham, as we considered the proposals would result in a prominent ribbon development into the countryside.  The application was subsequently refused and is now at Appeal.  Meanwhile the applicant has submitted an essentially identical application – an outline plan for 6 dwellings on the same site.  We have reiterated all our previous concerns and highlighted where the application deviates from the now adopted Joint Local Plan. We hope that this application is again refused and await the result of the Appeal.

Seckford Almshouses – By Adrian Cable, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Woodbridge – Seckford Almshouses gates

SPS has objected to the unauthorised removal of decorative gates at Seckford Almshouses, Woodbridge. Damage to the western gate had deemed it unsafe and it had been removed, together with the eastern gate.

The Victorian Almshouses are listed grade II* and their associated railings are listed grade II. The Almshouses were designed in c1834 by C. R. Cockerell, a highly important architect, with numerous buildings included on the statutory list at Grade I including the Bank of England, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and Harrow School. The railings and gates were added later in 1841-2 by his assistant, James Noble, and are illustrated and described as ‘impressive’ and ‘substantial’ in The Buildings of England: Suffolk: East. They also make a strong positive contribution to the setting of the Grade II* Almshouses and the Woodbridge Conservation Area.  

We have therefore called for the gates to be repaired and reinstated and have stressed that consent for their permanent removal is unacceptable.

SPS has since been approached by the East Suffolk Heritage Team for advice on specialists capable of carrying out the repairs and sources of grant aid. We will continue to watch the progress of this application with interest.

Boxford – appeal decision dismisses long running application for housing

We were pleased to learn that a scheme for 64 houses on a 14 acre site on the edge of Boxford has been dismissed at Appeal.  This hopefully marks the end of a long running application process which, since 2019, has seen an original application for 80 dwellings refused; a subsequent reduced scheme of 64 dwellings approved; a successful judicial review challenge by Boxford Parish Council to quash this decision. When it was reconsidered by the Babergh Planning Committee, the application was refused on just the one ground, namely the impact of extra traffic on Swan Street, despite it being some distance from the application site.   

SPS submitted a number of representations during this time highlighting our concerns over the impact of the proposals on the landscape surrounding the village and the urbanising impact of required highway alterations within the Boxford Conservation Area.  Interestingly, the Inspector did not agree with Babergh that the impact on Swan Street was sufficient to warrant the refusal of the application, but did share SPS’ view that the proposals failed to recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside. The Inspector also considered that safety issues were likely to arise from the highway changes within the conservation area. The Inspector stated that the proposals were in conflict with policies within the Neighbourhood Plan and the Local Plan, both of which were adopted since the applications were first submitted.

Valuing our Heritage

Historic England has published new research this month which shows that the overall wellbeing value for people’s day-to-day encounters with heritage is estimated to be worth £29 billion every year in England. Funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) through its Culture and Heritage Capital Programme, Historic England’s ‘Heritage Capital and Wellbeing: Examining the Relationship Between Heritage Density and Life Satisfaction’ report demonstrates that, as with the positive impact of green spaces on wellbeing, the very presence of nearby historic places benefits residents’ quality of life, whether or not they participate in heritage activities.

SPS has long valued Suffolk’s heritage and has spent over 90 years working to protect and raise its profile. This month the winners of our 2024 Suffolk Heritage Champion Awards have been decided and they will be announced in the next Suffolk View due out very soon. Details of all the winners will be available on our website. Our summer event which will be at the Courtyard at Heveningham Hall on 18 July, will include a presentation to all the SPS Heritage Champion Award winners by Jeremy Musson – see below for details on how to book.

Walpole Old Chapel – SPS supporting bid for grant funding

The current owners of The Chapel – The Historic Chapels Trust – is aiming to ‘re-home’ all of its buildings, prior to winding up as a charity. During this period, they will be spending £3.6m carrying out urgent repairs to those buildings most in need. Unfortunately, despite The Chapel being on the ‘Heritage at Risk’ register, it will not receive any of this funding as other HCT buildings were assessed to be in even more urgent need of repair.

With major repair and conservation work necessary, Walpole Old Chapel is therefore having to look for funding streams elsewhere to raise the required £400K.  SPS has met Simon Weeks from the Friends of the Walpole Old Chapel to discuss the plans for the future and was very happy to write in support of its grant applications.  Meanwhile Historic Suffolk (formerly Suffolk Building Preservation Trust and originally set up by SPS) has offered to take on ownership of The Chapel going forward.

Electricity transmission – ESO East Anglian Study

Energy Systems Operator (a part of National Grid) has produced a study assessing different ways to transfer electricity once it’s landed from certain offshore windfarms off the coast of East Anglia to where it’s needed.  Ten network configuration options that transfer power across and around the region were assessed. 

The report finds that there is no recommended optimal path nor is there a universally accepted solution that delivers the required electricity network capacity needed by the early 2030s and concludes:

Critical trade-offs will need to be made between the cost borne by the consumers, communities hosting this nationally significant infrastructure as well as environmental considerations.

It does demonstrate that an HVDC underground scheme from Norwich to Tilbury could be cost efficient, subject to longer delivery timescales of 2034. This option, however, will have negative implications for Suffolk, requiring more onshore infrastructure in the Friston area.

More information available here

Offshore wind – defeat in the courts for local campaign group

Suffolk Energy Action Solutions (SEAS) has lost its recent appeal against the dismissal of its claim for judicial review into the Secretary of State’s decision granting consent for the construction of East Anglia 1(N) and East Anglia 2 offshore windfarms.

SEAS claimed that “non-objection clauses” in compulsory purchase agreements with landowners were unlawful because they precluded, or dissuaded, landowners from raising objections to the development.

They also claimed that the Secretary of State had failed to address the complaints about the use of the non-objection clauses.

Both grounds were however dismissed.

SPS Events

A walk and talk in the ancient woodlands of Staverton Park

Wantisden, Woodbridge, IP12 3PJ

Wednesday 8 May. 10.30am. £20 per person

We will be led by Gary Battell, Suffolk County Council Woodland Advisor. Join us to learn about this unique woodland which is of great historical and conservation interest.

Following the walk, a light lunch will be served at the Shepherds Cottage, located on the edge of the forest and part of the Staverton Estate.

Hurry – only a few spaces left!

An evening with renowned architectural historian Jeremy Musson to celebrate the SPS Heritage Champion Awards

Courtyard, Heveningham Hall, IP19 0PN

Thursday 18 July. 6 pm – 8 pm. £30 per person (£20 for SPS Members)

Our speaker for the evening is renowned architectural historian, Jeremy Musson – a regular contributor to Country Life and other journals, as well as a former National Trust curator. He is author and co-editor of numerous books on historic houses and wrote and presented the BBC TV series A Curious House Guest. 

Champagne and canapes accompanied by Fishers Gin from Aldeburgh.

SPS Member visitor discounts

A reminder to all of our members to make the most of your Membership Card which gives you a 2 for 1 entry to Otley Hall; Helmingham Hall; Pakenham Water Mill; Little Hall, Lavenham; and Thelnetham Windmill.