Melton Hill – Decision Day

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Caroline Page speaks about the need for affordable housing in Woodbridge. Picture: Charmian Berry

Update: despite all representations, the East Suffolk planning committee  agreed the development, with two dissenting voices. One was Woodbridge LibDem District Councillor, Kay Yule.

We will now see what the next step will be

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Today is the day when the District Planning Committee decide whether the Melton Hill (Cheese wedge) development goes ahead.

Yesterday I accompanied the planning committee around the sites, in company with several Town Councillors, to view the impact on the town and neighbours.

The media  would like us to believe it is a done deal, but decisions are made by elected councillors not officers.

Viewing the site from Sutton Hoo

This is the third time this developer has come to the council with plans for the site.  Each time, the benefit to the community has reduced. Active Urban is obliged under legislation to provide 30% of the units as affordable units.  “Affordable housing” should mean housing  that can be afforded by the local people who we rely on and who so desperately need it. This is not what is on offer. Indeed, each offer seems to provide less affordable space.

https://suffolklibdems.org/carolinepage/2019/08/10/melton-hill-not-only-how-but-who/  et al.

I am told by the planning department that as your County Councillor I have no official right to speak today, except as an individual. The three minutes allotted for protesters is already – ably -filled.

So I am putting out here the questions I hope will come to the Committee’s minds as they examine the evidence:

  1. Why is East Suffolk Council bending the rules, and allowing the developer such a flexible interpretation of ‘affordable’ ?
  2. Why is East Suffolk Council ignoring the needs and wishes of the people of East Suffolk?
  3. Why is East Suffolk Council failing to remember, we not they own this site?
  4. Why is East Suffolk Council bending the rules on sustainability?
  5. Why is East Suffolk Council destroying almost every mature tree on the site – including two rare mulberries?
  6. Why has East Suffolk Council suddenly failed to include the old office buildings (one, a pleasant early 19th century villa) within their new proposed conservation area? It was in the original proposals.
  7. Most importantly of all, why are East Suffolk officers seemingly bending over backwards to facilitate this particular developer?

There are many explanations on offer.

In no scenario are the needs and wishes of the people of East Suffolk anywhere in the picture. Yet we pay taxes.  East Suffolk Council hold the site in trust for us.  Melton Hill could be sensitively and sensibly developed for local and environmental benefit rather than individual gain – as the award-winning  Norwich development shows https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/jul/16/norwich-goldsmith-street-social-housing-green-design

So, please come and join us outside East Suffolk House, Tuesday 13:00 and join a cross-party  mass expression of  quiet concern to encourage the committee to come to the right decision

You can bring a banner or poster if you want, but most importantly, bring yourself.  And your children/grandchildren. It is half term. It is also their adult future in Woodbridge!


 

Woodbridge: the county news. My October report


County Council Boundary changes consultation This affects us all. The Boundary Commission have now announced that they will be looking to reduce the number of Suffolk County Councillors  from 75 to 70. This means that boundaries will change. The next stage of the process is to determine where new division boundaries should be.
This is the chance for everyone – to have their say – both as councils and as individuals. Whilst I have personal reservations about the efficacy of reducing the number of county councillors when our workload is so heavy (at least, mine is) I suggest that this is an excellent time to look at the borders of the Woodbridge division, to ensure they work best for Woodbridge. For example, it has never been at all appropriate that the road-markings up the middle of Pyches Road separate the Woodbridge and Wickham divisions, particularly when Suffolk County Council is the Highways authority.
The public consultation will run until 2 December 2019. I urge you to take part: https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/18495

Local bus cut developments The petition for the 800 and 64 services has now surpassed 1500 signatures on and offline. (We had a stall in the Thoroughfare during the Carfree Day and gained another 400).
I have met with the Transport Manager and Business and Information Manager for Suffolk’s Growth, Highways and Infrastructure directorate to discuss how to go forward with this. They emphasise they have limited capacity to sway First decisions, although I point out that they are paying a significant sum of public money to First for bus-passes.
In parallel, as you know, we are arranging a meeting for many of the parishes along the route, and then with First.

Sizewell C – response to Stage 4 Consultation On 24 September, the Cabinet agreed a response to EDF’s Stage 4 consultation for Sizewell C. The Cabinet maintains that they support the principle of nuclear technology, but do not currently have sufficient information to support the proposals for Sizewell C.
You will have been copied in to my response as Woodbridge County Councillor.
My county group (of Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent councillors) has called on the Suffolk Cabinet to reject EDF’s proposals for Sizewell C . It responded to the consultation with concerns including:
• Expense: EDF will be overcharging UK consumers for electricity from Sizewell for the next 35 years. Latest prices of offshore wind generated power, per KWhr, without any subsidy, are less than half what EDF is being guaranteed;
• Impact on the surrounding natural environment, including the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB;
• Impact on the tourism industry;
• Additional carbon emissions and congestion from a road-led strategy;
• Lack of planning for nuclear waste disposal;
• Unsympathetic design to the surrounding natural area;
• Additional pylons in an already crowded landscape;
• Not convinced by EDF’s economic development argument.

County Budget monitoring – first quarter At the end of Q1, the council is forecasting a net overspend by the end of the year of £1.2m on the Base Budget and £6.7m on the Dedicated Schools Grant Budget.
The base budget overspend is largely due to rising costs for adult care, an overspend on the Home-to-School transport budget, and an increase in the number of children in care with complex needs who require specialist placements. Most other departments at the council are forecasting to spend on budget.
The £6.7m overspend on the schools budget is largely due to an increase in children with complex Special Educational Needs, and the increased costs for support and transport to schools outside of Suffolk that go alongside this. Although the council has agreed to spend on building new special education placements within Suffolk, which ought to address some of this expenditure in the future, it is too late for this financial year.

Continuing delay to children’s centre consultation Suffolk County Council has confirmed that there is “no firm start date” for the consultation regarding potential closures of children’s centres. Originally, the Council had stated that this consultation would start in September and run for 6 weeks.
The Council is proposing to close 2 children’s centres completely – including the Caterpillar Centre in Woodbridge – convert a further 11 to SEND facilities or nurseries, reduce 9 to part-time hours and convert the remaining 16 into family hubs providing services for families with children aged 0-19.

County Councillor’s Surgery: My surgery this month is on the 19th October. It will be a little  shorter than usual, as I will be going on to attend the Peoples Vote March in London.