Chairman’s Letter – February 2015
Not so much to report this year. However, no one should be unaware of the Government’s pressure on Local Authorities to build many more houses than previously planned for. Both Babergh and Braintree District Councils have had to come forward with new Local Plans to meet the Government’s revised housing figures. To give you an idea of the task facing them, Braintree District Council’s previously adopted Core Strategy set an annual average target of 272 new homes in the District. It now has to come forward with a revised Plan to provide between 750 and 950 new homes every year to 2033, with the necessary infrastructure to go with it. This is a huge increase. Nevertheless, BDC is aware of the need to protect the Upper Stour Valley. In its consultation paper it recognises the importance of the rural landscape in the upper Stour Valley, where it states:-
The impact of development proposals in the Upper Stour Valley will be particularly carefully assessed in light of the sensitive nature of this landscape and should support the…objectives of the [Project’s] Management Plan and not prejudice the long term aim to enlarge the area included in the AONB.
Let’s hope this language will be included in the final Local Plan. Although we are working closely with The Dedham Vale and Stour Valley Project and supporting the application to extend the AONB, our area extends well outside of this. We will also need to ensure adequate protection is included in Babergh’s revised Plan and be even more vigilant to ensure our open countryside is not over developed.
Some of you will have been aware of the threat to build 300 new homes and a new secondary school on the site of the existing school and adjoining farm land owned by Marks Hall Estate charitable trust, which caused strong local opposition. Despite the increase in housing, no extra school spaces were to be included, Marks Hall Estate were going to make available charitable trust land for school playing fields North of the A120, and many thought this was not a proper use of trust property. The proposal has now been withdrawn as Essex County Council, which owned the school, did not support the scheme. However, the Marks Hall Trustees have submitted the farm land south of the A120 for building in response to BDC’s “call for sites”.
The “call for sites” has provoked a massive response from land owners all over the District, especially from members of the so called Gateway 120, who are proposing 11,000 new homes between Coggeshall and Marks Tey, which would create a whole new town almost equivalent to Witham! A new campaign organisation, CAUSE (Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex), which is doing sterling work to try and prevent developer- led building on greenfield sites but instead ensure that new housing is so far as possible based around existing urban areas to encourage use of public transport, with brownfield sites and empty houses developed first. A good number of our members already support this worthwhile campaign.
Those of you, who have taken a close interest in the old Horkesley Park Visitor Centre site, will want to know what is happening. W & H Park Ltd, which acquired the site from the Administrators, is proposing to form a joint venture with local developers, Mersea Homes, to build what can be described as a hamlet on the footprint of the old greenhouse site, with a mix of houses and designs, suitably screened from Little Horkesley and protecting both the setting of the Church and Chantry. Before any formal application is made there will need to be a Landscape Impact Assessment and full Public Consultation. The developers will also need to obtain the support of English Heritage. Although these outline proposals are clearly superior to what we were threatened with by Buntings, I understand the developers will still have to persuade CBC to agree to a new Local Plan permitting this kind of development in such a location.
The issue of wind turbines and solar farm sites continues to focus attention. The enormous single turbine outside Clare was a ghastly mistake and should never have been allowed by the Bury St Edmunds planning committee in the face of sustained opposition. As invariably happens once one has been allowed, there is now a second proposal to erect yet another turbine of the same size on the adjacent farm. Although Bury St Edmunds has required an environmental statement before any formal application can be submitted, we must be prepared to oppose this. As for solar farm applications, we continue to be threatened by large scale applications particularly in the Bulmer/ Foxearth area. The refused Big Deere Lodge application is now awaiting an appeal decision. The Committee has agreed to object to any which are within or close to the area managed by the Project including, in particular, the area to be within the extended AONB, or which will otherwise have an adverse impact on the landscape.
Also in this same area is a proposal to build around 150 houses at Stafford Park (the Bush Brook Allen site at Foxearth). The site is quite unsuitable, with problems of access, flooding and ecology, being next to an SSI. It is thought that a formal application may be made quite shortly.
The application to extend the AONB has now been made; however, as only one application will be actioned at any one time by Natural England, we must be patient. It is likely to be some considerable time before our application comes forward for review.
We objected to the new application by Persimmon Homes to build 165 new homes on land East of Carsons Drive, Great Cornard, because of its adverse impact on the setting of Grade 1 Abbas Hall. Abbas Hall, and the views of Great Cornard Wood, are inextricably tied in with Gainsborough. In view of the application to extend the AONB, we should be doing all we can to protect what many describe as” Gainsborough Country.” We are still awaiting a decision.
There is nothing further for me to report on National Grid. It is only a matter of time before this is revived.
The unsightly Anglian Water pumping station near the river below Mount Bures continues to be an issue. Unsatisfactorily, it seems that CBC failed to require a suitable design and facia colouring to make it blend in with the landscape. It may be that there can be some improvement to the screening, but this is a good example to us all of why we must be alert to pick these applications up before it is too late.
Readers should not assume from what I have written above that our raison d’être is to oppose all housing and renewable energy development. It is not. We will support sustainable development and renewable energy proposals in the right location and work, where possible, with Parish Councils and local communities to ensure that their views are properly recognised.
On better news, we held an excellent Summer Party last summer in the fabulous garden of Geoffrey and Ellen Foster-Taylor. We were blessed with good weather. If you could not come, you missed a great occasion. Generously, this year Robert and Sara Erith have agreed to host this year’s summer party for us to enjoy their lovely garden and walks. Don’t be deterred even if it looks like rain on the day as they have a wonderfully restored barn.
Our speaker at this year’s Annual General Meeting will be Mark Bills, the curator of Gainsborough House. I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible at one or other event.
Sadly, as many of you know, Gill Eadie died. She was a very long standing member of our Committee and was always available to help, whether with distribution of the magazine, the Summer Party and so much else. We will all miss her.