Welcome to this new edition of the Colne-Stour Countryside Association magazine, the first produced by editor Christy Simson under a new committee. We are grateful to the work he has done producing this edition and I hope you enjoy it.
At the time of going to press it remains the position that it is too early to say how Brexit might affect agriculture and our rural landscape — if at all — but there is little doubt that planning issues pose the biggest threat to our area. The position regards the Braintree District Council Local Plan remains uncertain. The examination of section 1 of the Emerging Local Plan took place last year.
This section is the strategic section and was jointly prepared with Colchester Borough Council and Tendring District Council. It includes proposals for three North Essex Garden Communities (NEGC), one of which is near Marks Tey and another between Rayne and Great Saling. The councils say that their aim in pursuing garden communities is to channel new development into new settlements and protect the villages from over development.
At the examination, the Planning Inspector found a number of problems with the proposals and has required further evidence to justify the plan. I understand that the councils are currently in the process of collating this. As part of this process, the councils must assess alternatives to the garden communities. Developers have used this as an opportunity to put forward other sites in Braintree District which include substantial development to the east of Halstead, a new settlement near Pattiswick known as Monks Wood and development to the south of Haverhill.
The published timetable for the plan shows Section 1 being resubmitted for examination in the autumn of this year. In our view, this timetable is likely to be optimistic. In the meantime, Section 2 of the plan remains on hold. This section contains the other housing and employment sites in Braintree district.
The other problem faced by Braintree District Council is that, along with very many other councils in the south-east of England, they have not had, until recently, a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites. Without this, councils cannot rely on the fact they have not allocated a site for housing as the sole reason for objecting to a speculative planning application. As I write, Braintree claim it now has a 5.42-year supply but this is a moveable feast and likely to change.
The backdrop to all this is a near threefold increase in the housing target for Braintree as a result of changes to the way housing need is calculated, and the May government’s desire to hugely increase the number of new homes.
The other council of interest to members is Babergh which is now linked with Mid Suffolk. Babergh and Mid Suffolk are currently working on a new local plan. This is at an early stage of development. In the meantime, they rely on their adopted local plan. Babergh and Mid Suffolk have recently had to look again at their housing numbers as a result of a planning decision in Woolpit but now claims they have a five-year housing land supply.
Your committee has been involved in objecting to planning applications where we consider they would have a detrimental impact on the area covered by the association. We were particularly heavily involved in the recent appeal by Gladman Developments against a decision by Braintree to refuse permission for 92 houses off Colchester Road, Bures. The main issue was the effect on the landscape, particularly as this area is within the area proposed for the extension of the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) (see Robert Erith’s article). The appeal was dismissed on 27th March.
We have also objected to the development of 212 dwellings at the factory site at Stafford Park, Liston. That application has now been refused by the Braintree Planning committee, although the applicant has already appealed. This may still be difficult to resist because it is a brownfield site. We also keep a watch over controversial planning applications across the border in Suffolk. The most well known of these is an application at the southern end of Long Melford for 150 dwellings known locally as Skylark fields. This was refused by Babergh and has gone to appeal.
As to road infrastructure, Suffolk County Council has evaluated whether to proceed with a bypass to the west of Sudbury. There was a vocal campaign against this proposal but a lot of support from some Sudbury residents who want to see an end to lorries driving though the middle of the town. After instructing consultants to do a thorough cost/benefit analysis, Suffolk concluded that the cost of constructing the bypass was not justified and that under the government’s scoring system, it was extremely unlikely it would receive funding.
I understand the high cost was due to the need to construct a causeway over the water meadows. Whilst recognising the need to improve the traffic situation in Sudbury, there was relief at this decision as there was concern that a bypass would inevitably bring additional housing to this otherwise unspoilt valley.
The payment problems with the revamped web site appear to have been resolved after a few complications with PayPal and this means that the new committee will be going on a concentrated push for new members in 2019. The CSCA is now on Twitter @ColneStour and Facebook facebook.com/colnestour. Emma is sending out quarterly email updates with planning news updates and garden visits. Members can sign up via firstname.lastname@example.org if they would like to receive these (you may choose to unsubscribe at any time)
I would like to thank both Mark Dawson and David Daniels for many years of sterling service; both now stand down from the committee. I would also like to thank Charles Aldous and Robert Erith for their continued guidance as the new guard takes over; both have kindly agreed to remain on the committee for a further year. Their wisdom has really helped the new committee find its feet and we are very grateful to them. We are delighted to welcome Alastair Burns on to the committee.
The speaker at the CSCA annual general meeting this year at Ferriers Barn, Bures, on May 16th, will be George Courtauld, who will be speaking to us about his highly entertaining new book: “Three Men on a Diet”. Do please try to come.
Charles and Antonia Crawshay have very kindly agreed to host our summer party on June 27th at the Dower House, Bulmer. For those of you who have yet to see their beautiful garden this is an occasion not be missed. Thank you for your continued support; in these challenging times we are going to need it.