CHAIRMAN’S LETTER – FEBRUARY 2012
I would like to start with reporting that on your behalf we arranged for 14 lime trees to be planted in memory of Malcolm Jones on either side of the pathway running through Greys Hall Meadow, behind St Peter’s Church, Sible Hedingham. The trees were planted with help from the Parish Council. I can say that Elizabeth, who was there on the occasion, has been very appreciative. It is planned that the Parish will put up a suitable plaque in memory of Malcolm and possibly name the walk after him.
As with last year, a considerable amount of time has been taken up with National Grid’s proposal to install a new 400 Kv line from Bramford across the Stour Valley, Lamarsh, the Hennys and through to Twinstead, together with a new substation in the Twinstead/Wickham St Paul’s area. The Association is part of an Amenity Group formed to challenge National Grid and get as much of the cables, as possible, put underground. The Group comprises Stour Valley Underground, the Dedham Vale Society, Bury not Blight (Hintlesham area), CPREssex and the Suffolk Preservation Society. National Grid have decided on Corridor 2 and are now undertaking a series of public consultations to enable it to decide on the precise route within the corridor and which sections to underground.
Your Association is represented on the Twinstead & Stour Valley Community Forum. National Grid has engaged TEP consultants and with their assistance set up three Thematic Groups to look at landscape and views, cultural heritage and biodiversity issues affecting possible route selection and, importantly, the pros and cons of undergrounding particular areas. As well as having representatives of our joint group on these, we meet with TEP at the Community Forum meetings for updates. However, having explained this, I do not want to give any impression that the public consultation is meaningful; rather it is increasingly being thought to be a “box ticking” exercise by National Grid to be seen to go through the required process. As I understand it, there will be no independent expert report to National Grid on which parts deserve to be undergrounded and the relative importance or weight to be attached to the various matters being looked into by TEP (scenic, culture, biodiversity etc). The decision will be for National Grid alone, subject to challenge before the relevant Planning Authority. National Grid has already stated that it will not underground the entire route and some think it is looking for excuses to underground as little as possible.
I am not proposing to write a detailed report for the news letter as, by the time of the Annual General Meeting, National Grid should have announced which parts of the route it intends to underground. I can then report at the meeting and on the website where we are then and how we see matters going forward. But I don’t want to leave this topic without expressing my profound gratitude for the huge amount of work which Stour Valley Underground (principally David Holland and Richard Barnes) are doing to defend our area. Those interested in following the technical issues or seeing how the arguments over the comparative cost of pylons versus undergrounding should visit their excellent website: www.stourvalleyunderground.org.uk.
I am pleased to report that a formal application has now been submitted by The Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Partnership to have the AONB extended up towards Sudbury. This application has the full support of all relevant County and District Councils. It is nevertheless one of over 35 similar applications and will likely be several years before it comes up for detailed consideration. As AONBs have greater statutory protection, when it comes to undergrounding cables, we are maintaining that National Grid should proceed on the basis that in due course the application will succeed.
There is also good news to report on the Buntings application for the Theme Park at Great Horkesley. With strong opposition from Stour Valley Action Group and support at the hearing from your Association, the application was thrown out by the Planning Committee. I have since been informed not only that there is to be no appeal, but that the Chantry (the house forming a central part of the scheme) is up for sale, with rumours of other connected property coming onto the market. Although we have heard of the possibility of a new much scaled down application sometime in the future, this should be the last of anything like the previous one.
There are, however, serious threats at both ends of our area. Two applications for wind farm trial masts have been submitted close to Clare. If they lead to formal applications for a large number of wind turbines, as threatened, this will have a devastating effect on this lovely part of the upper Stour Valley. Opposition is being spearheaded by Stop Clare Wind Farm www.stopclarewindfarm.com. We are fully supportive and have written in to object as appropriate. On the South East side we are faced with persistent applications and appeals by Colchester Skip Hire Ltd to vastly expand its waste disposal site at Fordham. If allowed, it will result in a large number of trucks hurtling through the village at all hours of the day, dropping litter and causing considerable anxiety to the residents, as there are no pavements in parts and a Primary School, not to mention noise and light pollution. Again, we have given full support to the village and intend to give evidence at the forthcoming appeal hearing.
I do not propose to mention all the other planning matters in which we have taken an interest during the year. But, as I repeat each year, if there are any matters which you, the members, are concerned about, do mention it to your local representative or a member of the Committee. Although we receive details of every planning application in our area, do not assume everything of concern will be picked up. There may be unauthorised activities of which the Committee are unaware.
The Localism Act received the Royal Assent on 15th November 2011. It generated much hostility from many quarters. Even though there are some good points, such as giving Local Authorities and communities a greater say in development within their area, there is pressure for a large increase in housing and a presumption in favour of sustainable development (whatever this means), wherever land is not protected by specific designations. With a shortage of finance, there will be added pressure on Local Authorities to allow unsuitable development in return for receiving a financial levy from developers to pay for community projects. CPREssex is actively monitoring a threat of a major development by a consortium of landowners between Coggeshall and Marks Tey.
Air traffic has been a concern to many of you. Despite years of uncertainty, NATS has still not reached any final decision on flight paths and stacking areas. The options, put out for further consultation, carry a threat to the area close to Sudbury. We are monitoring this and will be commenting. Although there may, at present, be a downturn in the number of flights, this will increase. Those who are particularly troubled by aircraft noise should make their views known to NATS.
Finally, the Committee have decided to increase the annual subscription rates to £10 for single and £15 for joint membership. I hope you will think these increases are entirely reasonable. Given the immense pleasure you derive from the Magazine, not to mention the AGM and Summer Party, members will, I hope, amend their existing bankers order, or even better become a life member at the bargain rate of only £50 for one or £80 for two! This year we are very fortunate to be able to hold our garden party at Colne Park, the home of Kit and Georgina Hunter Gordon. I hope to see many of you there, if not before at the AGM.