CHAIRMAN’S LETTER – APRIL 2011
This has been a busy year, with considerable time being taken up in resisting National Grid’s proposals for an additional line of pylons across the Lamarsh and Henny valleys through to Twinstead. Because of its importance to many of you and its complexity, I have covered this in a separate article. However, we are approaching a critical time. With the finalisation of the relevant National Policy Statement and possible revision of Ofgem’s powers and duties in relation to electricity transmission, as well as National Grid’s pending decision on the chosen corridor, it is inevitable that matters will have moved on by the time of the Annual General Meeting.
Whilst on the subject of energy, and the vexed topic of wind farms, British Telecom received permission last August to erect a temporary 60 m meteorological mast at Leys Farm near Stoke by Clare to test suitability for the erection of six 100 m wind turbines on what is one of the highest points in the upper Stour Valley. Although the application was strongly opposed, it was likely that the temporary mast would be approved. But this should not be seen as indicating that, even if the site is proved suitable so far as wind strength and consistency, permission will be granted. Wind turbines at this site would be visible for miles around and create an unsightly scar across this beautiful part of South Suffolk. They would be unnecessary, providing a trivial amount of electricity compared to the huge size of the wind farms planned off our coast. Your Association supports the need for renewable energy, but takes the view that, at least in our area, all wind farms should be located offshore. If and when any application is subsequently made, we will provide whatever support we can to all those opposing it.
But, this may be just one example of what is to come in other areas. We must all be vigilant. As I have said before, if you hear of any threat, do contact your local representative immediately. It may be the application has gone in unnoticed and time for objections is running out. Please do not suppose that others are already on the case.
The Buntings’ application to create a theme park and retail centre at Great Horkesley, which has generated so much hostility, will not now be considered by the Council until after the local elections in May. To allow time for reconstituting the planning committee, the decision may not now be until late June or July.
At last BAA have abandoned their attempt to get a second runway at Stansted. Although some of you may still be affected by aircraft noise, NATS scrapped their changed flight path proposals due to strong opposition from those affected by the new proposed stacks outside of our area. Because of a very large decline in passenger numbers, air traffic has dropped significantly. NATS estimate we will not return to the peak levels of 2007 until 2013/14. It will therefore be some time before they come forward with revised flight paths.
Of particular interest to some of you, is our involvement in supporting opposition to The Environment Agency’s plans to deal with flooding in Steeple Bumpstead by closing Church Lane and deepening the river where the ford is. There are, we believe, other alternatives to deal with the problem, which we, along with others, have put forward. The problem has been caused in part by the Local Authority permitting Church Field to be built over without regard to run off, and a failure by the Water Authority to ensure the river downstream has been kept clear. The Agency is examining these, but, as with everything nowadays, it may come down to cost. For those who know it, Church Lane and the ford are most attractive ancient features of the village, which should, if possible, be kept open.
Shortage of funding, amongst other factors, has I am sorry to say also put back for some years any possibility of getting the AONB extended along the Stour Valley up to Sudbury.
We have had to deal with at least two sites occupied by travellers. At Ferriers Lane, Bures, the occupants, who own the site and have a history of breaching planning conditions, are applying for a number of extra pitches. Although, after very considerable objection, permission was refused, the application has gone to appeal with what appears to be less than wholehearted opposition from the planning officers. There is, undoubtedly, considerable pressure on Local Authorities to provide extra sites, but this should not absolve them from promoting suitable sites, which do not despoil the countryside, our footpaths and bridleways, such as would happen in Bures.
There have been a number of other matters with which we have been involved over the year, including Persimmon’s proposals to build 170 new houses in Carson’s Drive, Great Cornard, where, not least, the access is inadequate. We have also objected to persistent attempts by Colchester Skip Hire to establish an even larger waste disposal plant at Wormingford.
Much has been heralded with the New Localism Bill, giving greater power and involvement to local communities in shaping development. However, bodies such as CPRE are rightly concerned that the Bill leaves too much power in the hands of developers, making neighbourhoods vulnerable to damaging projects being forced on them with no mechanism for appeal. With an acute shortage of funds, Local Authorities may be attracted to allowing less than ideal proposals in return for developers offering much needed planning gains elsewhere.
The Committee agreed to include within your Newsletter an application form to join either CPREssex or the Suffolk Preservation Society, if you have not already done so. Each is a division of CPRE, which is a vital voice in defending the interests which we are so passionate to protect. Whatever the eventual outcome, their support in joining us, the Dedham Vale Society and others in opposing National Grid has added considerable weight to our cause. I do hope that as many of you as possible will give them your support. Please forgive me for also repeating here my annual bleat that we need many more younger members.
Finally, as well as hoping to see as many of you as possible at our AGM to listen to an interesting talk from Professor Jules Pretty, may I welcome you all to our Summer Party on the 16th June at Twinstead Manor, the home of William and Henrietta Drake, where I am sure you will much enjoy their lovely garden and grounds.
Yours, Charles Aldous