This has been a year of uncertainty, waiting, with some concern, as to how the Government’s insistence on a huge increase in new houses by our District Councils may affect our area, and, particularly, how this may result in the Councils allowing development in unsuitable rural locations to meet their required quota. As an Association we cannot set our face against this need for many more houses, but we can legitimately object to development in unsuitable locations which despoil our country- side, cause congestion on our country lanes and create excessive pressure on our local schools and services. To this end our policy is to try to work with local parish councils, wherever possible, particularly over development within the village envelope. We are grateful to the number of Parishes who have affiliated and are here to lend our support on issues of common ground.
To meet this pressure for more housing, both Braintree and Babergh have had to produce new Local Development Plans, which are yet to be finalised. Braintree District Council alone needs to build between 12 and 15 thousand new houses between 2013 and 2033. A major risk to the plan is the highway network. There are still no plans, as yet, by the Government, for the A120. It is expected that Braintree’s final draft Plan will be published for consultation in the summer, with final approval from the Planning Inspectorate not until autumn 2017.
Despite rumours of a large number of unsuitable sites which have been optimistically submitted by landowners, when Braintree called for sites as part of its Site Allocation consultation, we are cautiously optimistic that Braintree’s final Plan will limit development in the countryside by centralising development around its urban centres; although there will be some permitted infilling. Importantly, the policy will, it is anticipated, protect the upper Stour Valley governed by the Stour Valley Project, including the area proposed for the AONB extension.
Within Babergh there may have to be a greater amount of development in some of the identified core villages. However, so far as our area, the majority of new houses will be to the North of Sudbury where permission has already been granted for 166 houses at Great Cornard, close to Abbas Hall and 1,250 more houses, with integrated facilities and green spaces, being sought at Chilton Woods on the Northern outskirts. There may well be more development off the A134 at Cornard. To accommodate all this new development there is likely to have to be a North South bypass to the West of Sudbury connecting the A134 and A131, but the route should not have to pass through the water meadows.
I apologise for devoting so much of my letter to the above and in such a boring factual way, but this is the major issue of the moment. Clearly, if there has to be so much more building, it is better if development pressure is taken off the rural areas by concentrating it around urban centres. Provided the core values of our local market towns are protected and provision made for schools and services, this may be as much as we can hope for.
I recognise that there is an important ongoing debate outside of our area as to whether there should be a large scale new town close to Great Tey. Nothing I have said should be taken in anyway as supporting this.
On the more specific issues; there is an outstanding application, pending consideration, for 100 houses and 22 apartments on the former brown field factory site at Stafford Park near Liston. There has been much local opposition, including from your Association. Liston and the local country lanes should not have to tolerate such a huge increase in traffic, quite apart from the serious issue of flooding and pressure it would put on local services.
Horkesley Park is no longer the issue it was. Although there is likely to be some housing development on the site of the old greenhouses, it is anticipated that this will be combined with legal restrictions preventing any development within the AONB land to the West.
There are as yet no new applications for wind turbines or large scale solar farms, although we are continually vigilant. The Association has an adopted policy for all new applications within the area.
When the Bramford to Twinstead new electricity line resurfaces, as it will, we have no reason to suppose that National Grid will not keep to its decision to underground the cables across the Stour Valley to Twinstead, including that part within the applied for AONB extension.
So far as the AONB extension, it looks as if it will be several years before any decision is made. We have now learned that only one application at a time will be considered, each taking some time to progress and that there are at least two and may be more before the Stour Valley Project’s application comes forward. Given the enormous support our application has received locally, we remain realistically hopeful it will succeed in due course.
Many of your committee members have been on the Committee for some years now, including myself. We need new blood. We are sad to lose Simon Ward and Anthony Keniry who have each served the Association for some years; Simon as a past Chairman and Anthony overseeing the Babergh side. We are very grateful to both. Jeremy Hill, a former chairman and stalwart supporter of the Association for very many years, has also asked to stand down from the Committee, but agreed to continue as our President, for the present. We have enjoyed the very many articles Jeremy has written for our magazine and thank him enormously for all he has done for us.
We are very pleased to have co-opted two new younger members on to the Committee: Hugh Petre, who lives at Ferriers, and Charles Crawshay, who is moving to Simon Ward’s former house at Bulmer. Both are very keen to see the Association taken forward for the next generation. More younger Committee members are needed, as are more members of the Association. If, looking at the list of members at the back of the magazine you see names missing who should be invited to join, I reiterate again, do please give me their names and addresses or, if you prefer, contact them yourself, with the enclosed membership form. It may be they have just moved into the area or, as likely, not know about us and what we stand for. A nudge from you or me should do the trick.
I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible at either our AGM, when we are expecting an illuminating talk on Munnings or at our Summer Garden party, which Charles and Alice Raymond have kindly agreed to host in their lovely garden at Belchamp Hall.