We attended the public examination of the proposed East Suffolk planning policy to 2036. The Planning Inspector has options: he can accept the proposed plan as presented by East Suffolk Council, consult on further modifications or amendments in order for him to accept the proposed plan, or reject the proposed plan as presented.
All the documents and written responses can be found on the East Suffolk Council website here
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT THE IMPACT ON MARTLESHAM PARISH
This is of particular significance to the parish because of the inclusion of the Suffolk Police HQ site for 300 houses and the 120 dwellings at the Woodbridge Town Football Club site in the north of the parish.
We attended the hearing on various dates between 20 August and 20 September 2019 to follow up our comprehensive written statements submitted prior to the Hearing on procedural matters. These drew the Inspector's attention to the late inclusion of the Police HQ and Woodbridge Town Football Club sites nominated for housing, and the fact that the related policies failed to take in to account the Martlesham Neighbourhood Plan. We drew attention to our earlier 2018 responses and statements to the 2018 version of the draft Local Plan which covered many issues with the proposed planning policy.
Between 20 July and 14 Sept 2018 Suffolk Coastal District Council (SCDC) as it was then (now East Suffolk COuncil) carried out a public consultation on their draft Local Plan. This draft plan was the culmination of several years’ work by the SCDC planning department.
The draft Local Plan aligned closely with the Martlesham Neighbourhood Plan – i.e. it said that there would only be 20 additional housing houses required in this area up to 2036 over and above the 2000 homes already approved for the Brightwell Lakes site next to BT.
As a result your Parish Council was generally satisfied with the draft Local Plan and responded accordingly. However, towards the end of November 2018, we were informed that two major new sites within the Parish had been added into the Plan. Furthermore, policies for these two sites had already been drawn up - we were told that these could not be changed and that the only chance to comment on them would be the final phase of consultation in early 2019.
Police HQ Site
(this is within the Neighbourhood Plan area)
Most of you will already be aware that the police announced in mid-2018 (just a matter of a week or two after the Neighbourhood Plan had been formally adopted) their intention to look at the possibility of selling off their site and using the income to move to a new location in more modern buildings which they said would be much cheaper to run.
The designs they published at the time were for 250 homes on the site. We subsequently met the Police & Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, and his consultants on two occasions and we discussed far ranging options for the site including the need for more sports facilities in this area to meet shortages in Martlesham and Kesgrave, the need for downsizing housing (bungalows) for older residents, the need for e.g. a nursing home etc. BTW The Brightwell Lakes plans that we have seen do not mention any facilities for the elderly.
Unknown to us the police submitted a response to the SCDC consultation on 13 September 2018 (one day before the closing date) formally requesting that their site be included in the Local Plan.
It’s all pretty technical stuff in planning-speak, but their conclusion is:-
“It is requested that more development is directed to Martlesham Heath within the proposed spatial distribution strategy set out in Table 3.3. Martlesham Heath is a sustainable location for additional development, in that it is accessible by a range of modes of transport and it contains a good range of services and facilities. The Suffolk Constabulary HQ site represents a previously developed site located within the settlement boundary of Martlesham Heath, and which has no constraints to development, and in these circumstances the site should be allocated for residential development for up to 250 dwellings. The spatial distribution strategy should be amended to reflect these requested changes”
This site has now been included in the Local Plan in a new policy (SCLP12.25), but SCDC have upped the figure to 300 homes. It talks about “ Delivery of a high quality, high density residential scheme incorporating flats and mix of residences to meet local needs”
A full copy of this policy can be downloaded here
It is emphasised that the Parish Council was not consulted at all about the wording of this policy (let alone the general principle of changing its use from employment to housing) or for their interpretation of the Neighbourhood Plan. Bearing in mind we have been working closely with SCDC for more than four years on the evolution of the NP, this failure to discuss this site with us is all the more disappointing.
Woodbridge Football Club site
(this is not within the Neighbourhood Plan area as Woodbridge Town Council requested it be within their proposed NP area - but as you may know the Woodbridge NP was subsequently abandoned)
The idea of developing this site has been mooted for quite a few years, but nonetheless it was not included in the draft Local Plan.
Unknown to us an agent for Hopkins Homes submitted a response to the 2018 consultation on the closing day which concluded “A policy should be added to the Plan to define Land at and surrounding Woodbridge Town Football Club as a strategic housing allocation for at least 100 dwellings.”
A copy of their submission can be downloaded here
This site has now been included in the Local Plan in a new policy (SCLP12.33), but SCDC have upped the figure to approx. 120 homes. It talks about “Provision of a mix of housing including housing suitable to meet the needs of the elderly population and including affordable housing ”.
A full copy of this policy can be downloaded here
It is emphasised that the Parish Council was not consulted at all about the inclusion or wording of this policy let alone the principle of housing in this location.
The Planning Examination 2019
In August and September 2019, the Government appointed an external Examiner to consider the “soundness” of the plan during a month long public hearing. The Examiner has the remit to make modifications to all, or parts, of the Draft Plan in order to make it legally compliant.