New plans for the Melton Hill development have been submitted- and surprise, surprise, they are pretty much the same as before. If you want to write, do so by Thursday 25th July (Link here – though you will be given a little latitude to get in submissions after this date. However officers will start examining the application week beginning 29th July ).
Here is my response
I am writing as County Councillor for Woodbridge to comment on new plans submitted for the Melton Hill development of the former Suffolk Coastal District council offices.
These seem to be very similar to the original plans, which is disappointing.
Current national planning policy “seeks to significantly boost the supply of homes through a sufficient amount and variety of land that will come forward where it is needed, to meet the needs of groups with specific housing requirements”.
Accordingto the Suffolk Coastal Local Plan, the District Council “shares the government’s ambition and is seeking to deliver sustainable communities across the District.”
It seems strange therefore that the significant need that clearly exists in Woodbridge: indeed the overwhelming need for affordable housing for the town’s young families, home-leavers, down-sizers, people with disabilities, low-earners is not at the heart of this development.
It is also strange that in the very recent past the district council had proposed extending the conservation boundary for Woodbridge town to include such buildings as “Council Offices No 112 Thoroughfare – A substantial mid nineteenth century classical villa constructed of white brick with projecting eaves and a slate roof. Much of its original external joinery survives,“ and even mentioning favourably the mid C20 redbrick council offices next to it. The rationale was clear: “extending the conservation boundary would contribute significantly to safeguarding the setting of the GII listed Maltings cottage, Melton Hill, and no 42 Deben Road, … It would also afford protection to a number of presently unlisted structures that make a strong positive contribution to the character of this part of town.”
Surely the only reason this aspiration can have been omitted from the recent consultation on Woodbridge’s Conservation boundary is because elements within the District Council have predetermined that 112 Thoroughfare should be destroyed – to facilitate development of a frontage containing the brick, aluminium and concrete ‘Block E”? This cannot be right.
I want to emphasise:
- this plan’s adverse impact on historic skylines and views on both sides of the Deben;
- its paucity in addressing the unmet needs of the many groups with specific housing requirements in this town
- the continuing huge and unexplained difference of the current ‘vision’ from the 2016 ‘Community Consensus Masterplan‘;
- the difficulty one has in identifying where the affordable elements in this scheme will sit. (I would also add, difficulty in believing in follow- through for delivery of 32 affordable elements on site);
- the height of proposed multi-storey blocks G , H, B & F while possibly suitable for an urban setting – are not designed to be in character with the town and make a poor “gateway” to Woodbridge;
- the design will dwarf the town and overlook all neighbouring housing creating a significant loss of amenity to neighbours in Thoroughfare, Deben Road and Old Maltings, as well as impacting adversely on National Trust’s historic views of the riverside and town from Sutton Hoo;
- the planned removal of almost all trees from the area (including – to my dismay – two black mulberries), which – apart from the issues of their removal – will therefore not screen this development from the neighbours in Deben Road and the Maltings;
- the impact of the development itself on the running of the town of Woodbridge
- the impact on the community of all additional traffic that might occur because of Melton Hill becoming a residential development. This area is adjacent to a longstanding and hitherto insoluble AQMA: this cannot improve the situation. Significantly, Suffolk County Council and Woodbridge Town Council have both declared a climate Emergency, with East Suffolk proposing to follow;
- Suffolk Coastal used traditionally to open its Melton Hill carpark to the public for events in Woodbridge at the weekend. This development is therefore creating a de facto public parking loss;
- The impact on the character of the town. Who are the proposed residents? The 32 -mostly 1 bedroomed dwellings that have been labelled ‘affordable’ do not fit the need profile of this town. In order to survive as a working town, Woodbridge needs significant amount of housing at “social rental” (65% of market rental) not one-bedroom flats at affordable rental (80% of market rental value).
Finally, as before, I want to query the propriety of the district council seeking to monetise this site instead of looking at the legacy benefits of providing for younger, less affluent people, professionals in low-paying jobs, young families, disabled people, and those wanting to downsize within the town they grew up in. Failure to provide this housing is having a cumulatively poor effect on the local economy, on traffic and congestion.
Every week, as county councillor, I talk to those whose families have lived in Woodbridge for generations but whose children and grandchildren are excluded from their hometown. Woodbridge fire-station is staffed by retained firefighters, the town has multiple care homes full of low-paid carers, schools packed with children whose parents can’t afford to live here (teachers can’t afford to live here either). Older people can’t afford to downsize because there aren’t sufficient modest homes to rent.
The people who can afford to live in Woodbridge are reliant on the services of all those people they have displaced. These generally need to come to Woodbridge by car, adding to the already-chronic traffic and air quality problems of our town.
What our town needs is joined-up planning to provide housing at affordable rents – housing for young families; housing for ‘downsizers’; housing for disabled people and those starting off in life. In the last two decades Woodbridge has lost more and more of the key rental sector stock that it needs to support the key workers of the town. In reviewing this situation, Suffolk Coastal could either add to this problem or provide a solution. To consider yet another version of ‘same as before’ provided by this developer, or significantly boost the supply of local homes where it is needed, to meet the needs of local groups with specific housing requirements as national planning guidelines suggest is desirable.
Therefore, in view of my concerns outlined above, I urge the District Council to reject this application and to re-evaluate their priorities in how this site should be developed