Two weeks ago I wrote to JTP, asking the named contact they gave these important questions about the process by which the Community Consensus Masterplan transformed itself into the very different plans submitted:
“I’ve just been reading the email from JTP detailing the pre-application process leading to Active Urban’s current application for planning permission to develop the Melton Hill site in Woodbridge.
Your name has been given as a contact should I have any questions. I have several, which I would be grateful for you to answer. As follows:
In this email you mention,
- The creation of a “community vision”…
My question a) What exactly were the requirements listed by the community for their “community vision”? Could you provide the full list of those requirements articulated by the community in their vision for the site ( the list you provide is cherrypicked). To what extent was the full list used in the development of the design that followed?
- a pre-application process was set up and the design of the scheme evolved …”taking into consideration the Vision and outcomes from the Community Planning Weekend” and that “the strength of the initial concepts, ideas and feedback from the general public has remained intact throughout this process
My question b) could you demonstrate how the vision and outcomes of the community planning weekend were taken into consideration, and explain how the strength of the initial concepts, ideas and feedback from the general public has remained intact throughout this process? It wuld be good to check off the outcomes against a full list of community requirements
- “an independent Design Review Panel was held on 3rd October 2016.”
My question c) please could you provide the full membership by name, occupation and company of this Independent Design Review panel?
- that “the Panel felt the scheme had great potential to make a positive contribution to the town and appreciated the ambition of both the client and architect.
My question d) Can you explain why this first panel “appreciated the ambition of both the client (presumably the District Council rather than the local community) and the architect ” yet the wishes of the community are not even mentioned? Can you demonstrate that the ambition of the client and architect is to represent the wishes of the ultimate owners or the local community? Could you articulate in what way it will make a positive contribution to the town?
- that a second Design Review Panel with more developed designs was held on 2nd February 2017.
My question e) please could you provide the full membership by name, occupation and company of this second Independent design review panel?
My question f) Can you explain the exact status of these two Independent design review panels you have mentioned – (both the one that met on 3 Oct 2916 and that which met on 2 Feb 2017)? Their existence appears to constitute something of an anomaly: if a panel were wholly independent it might not be fully aware of local issues. If aware of local issues it would not be wholly independent.
- and that “The Panel acknowledged the design changes and the significant amount of work undertaken in developing the design. The overall change of scale, removal of buildings and redesign to the Melton Hill streetscape was suggested as “showing a fantastic improvement“.
My question g) You quote from the conclusions of the second panel – a panel that seems quite content with a mass destruction of trees and buildings. Firstly ‘a fantastic improvement’ on what? The Community Vision? An unseen design? Secondly “overall change of scale, removal of buildings and redesign to the Melton Hill streetscape” – are these in context of the Community vision or from a second unseen design?
Thirdly, who uttered these words? The people of Woodbridge absolutely need chapter and verse on the origin and relevance of every part of the last 22 word sentence, phrased so conveniently in the passive voice. If it is a quote, somebody said it – and we need to know who and in what context. Such destructive decision-makers need to be named (– and if happy with their decision will have no problem with being so named)!
I await your speedy reply with interest
I received a telephone call a few days later from the gentleman in question, who was eager to tell me that a) he could tell me about the destination of the Drummer Boy (not, note, a question I had asked); b) none of this was his personal responsibility and c) there was going to be affordable housing in the development but that as d) he was down in Winchester he would not be able to answer my full list of written questions in written form very fast, certainly not for several weeks.
In the interests of transparency we need to know the answers to all these questions.
I have therefore included them as “unanswered’ in my submission to the District Council.
Over a hundred people have so far made a submission to the District Council about the “cheese wedges” that are the Melton Hill development. I will be writing one too – in which I’ll cover issues I’ve mentioned elsewhere.
But here I want to speak as your County Councillor, turning from the subject of design to purpose – and the propriety of the District wanting to monetise this site instead of looking at the legacy benefits of providing for local people.
Remember, Melton Hill isn’t owned by the district– it is held in trust for us by our elected and appointed servants. How on earth have we got into the situation where these servants are doing a deal with themselves to hock it off for the biggest possible profit? And how can this be the best outcome for the rest of us?
Every week, I talk to families who’ve lived in Woodbridge for generations but whose children and grandchildren are excluded from their hometown. Disabled people who have to leave their support network. Old people who can’t even afford to downsize in the town in which they’ve spent their lives. Yet our medieval streets are increasingly full of – not even second homes – but holiday lets, serving no residential purpose whatsoever.
Everyone who lives in Woodbridge needs the services of those who have been displaced – and who have to come in by car, adding to already-chronic traffic and air quality problems.
Woodbridge doesn’t need more high end housing. It absolutely does need housing at social rent (that’s 65% of market rental value) and lots of it, to help house all those people we rely on. Retained firefighters, low-paid care workers, young families and teachers who cant afford to live near our schools. Nurses, police, paramedics… I could go on. Since ‘right-to-buy’ , Woodbridge has lost more and more of the key rental sector stock needed to support these key workers in the town
The sale of Melton Hill can’t go through until and unless planning permission is granted – by the very council that profits from the sale. How can this not be a conflict of interest? The current development should not go ahead on these grounds alone!
And the District Council must be persuaded to think differently. That current promise of 33 affordable units (80% of market rental price – which may, as in other cases diminish or disappear during development) – that isn’t the answer. For a start, it isnt enough. Local people -people who have paid their council tax to fund Melton Hill – have significant unmet needs. Why don’t we start from there?.
The District Council must be persuaded to recognise the legacy benefits of making the Melton Hill site into, say, a Community Land Trust to provide housing at social, not affordable, rent to ensure that Woodbridge remains the living, breathing town it currently is.
I’m therefore asking Woodbridge Town Council to reject this application and to urge the District council to re-evaluate their priorities and move in the direction I have suggested to develop the site.
This is the speech I made to Woodbridge Town Council’s Planning Committee this evening.
The meeting was attended by sixty or seventy residents, of whom ten or so spoke . Their concerns about the site covered appearance, accessibility, loss of the trees, loss of amenity, change to the appearance of the town and impact transport and on air quality . The Committee rejected the plan unanimously.
However – Woodbridge Town Council is just a statutory consultee. The final decision is made by the Councillors on Suffolk Coastal’s Planning Committee.
Keep those letters coming in, folks