Toothless? Is Suffolk’s heritage coast still protected?

 

Southwold beach with little children playing. Behind them is the sea, in the distance, SizewellSizewell
Southwold beach, looking towards Sizewell

As the County Councillor for Woodbridge I raised following significant concerns about East Suffolk’s final modifications to the wording -and in my opinion, the intentions – of the  Suffolk Coastal Local Plan.  The two most concerning points are:

1 Weakening of conditions concerning Major Infrastructure Projects in Suffolk Coastal
First and foremost, I am deeply concerned about the nature of several of these last-minute changes – which lead to the clear weakening of local powers in relation to Major Infrastructure Projects, and a consequent negative impact on local communities and the Suffolk coastal countryside.

 Worryingly, in terms of the recent Sizewell C submission and the Scottish Power application, the community benefits which in the previous document the SCPL stated “will need to be delivered” from major energy development projects now only “may be required.” This is a very concerning reduction in emphasis and leaves many local communities at significant risk.

Previously the Local Plan called for packages “ to offset and compensate” “ the burden and disturbance” experienced by local communities. These words have now been watered down to merely express an ambition that these companies should “mitigate the impacts.” This is milquetoast wording and again is letting down local communities who will significantly disbenefit from major energy infrastructure projects.

 

Again,the rewording of this policy (SCLP3.5) now reduces the obligation of developers, so they only contribute to infrastructure “as necessary.” Who defines what is necessary? What if the developers choose to disagree? This change must not be made if this plan is to benefit the residents of Suffolk rather than the developers.

I am told that the explanation East Suffolk has given for these changes “ is to better align the policy with the National Planning Policy Framework, which the plan needs to be compatible with.” I am afraid I do not believe this is the case, especially as this lack of alignment seems only to have been discovered at the eleventh hour.

It is clear that the interests of the people of Suffolk Coastal would require that the original wording was retained.

Woodbridge Shire Hall in the nineteenth century

2 In “Areas to be protected from development”: I notice with concern that an entire policy (Policy SLP11.9 Areas to be Protected from Development, and supporting text) has simply been deleted.

Within modifications doc, Modifications MM49, it simply says “Delete Policy SLP11.9 Areas to be Protected from Development, and supporting text.” To refresh failing memories:

Policy SCLP11.9 was : Areas to be Protected from Development Areas to be protected from development as identified on the Policies Map comprise local scale sites, gaps, gardens and spaces that make an important contribution to the character and setting of a settlement in their unaltered form. In some locations these areas maintain settlement separation. Accordingly, development within these areas will be severely restricted to maintain the character of the area and ensure settlement coalescence is not compromised.

Martlesham creek: people have lived along this stretch of the Deben for many thousands of years

My question is Why has Policy SCLP11.9 been deleted? My concern is, Why should it be deleted? It is concerning for residents thoughout Suffolk Coastal , and for me as Woodbridge County Councillor as of course a lot of Woodbridge consists of areas to be protected from development. When read in relation to point 1 above, it is particularly concerning

I am told that this deletion is is because the inspector wished to be given greater evidence of the need to have a specific designation on these areas of land. East Suffolk did not elect to provide this evidence – which is extremely worrying.

I have been assured the protection remains, covered by other documents. I wish I could be certain. By the time one says ‘Ooops’ – it is generally too late. This is particularly the case with the heritage coast.

I raised other significant issues -especially in relation to reduction in 1 and 2 person housing numbers, and the need for more teeth in asserting public transport needs which I am happy to share.

However these two points above are crucial in terms of the long-term survival, wellbeing – indeed the very existence of our heritage coast.  That these major modifications to the wording and intention of this document should  occur so late and in such an opaque fashion should concern everyone.

Staverton Thicks – – an emblem of the unchanging nature of our Suffolk Coastal countryside

I hope my District Council colleagues will pick this one up and hold the council to account.

 

 

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