This is the letter that has been sent to Infinity Architects on behalf of the Parish Council. We would also urge all residents to make their own comments/thoughts known to Infinity by responding to the letter that you have all recently received.
We have received and discussed the Development Brief prepared for the Erskine Lodge site and would like to respond as follows:
The Parish Council are concerned that the correct procedures have not been followed in relation to this proposed development. A set of plans have already been presented to local residents giving the impression that a decision has already been made as to both the density and design of the project.
We would suggest that consultation takes place as to the correct use of this site. The PC only agreed to a change of use of the site from a Care Home to ‘affordable housing’ as a way to prevent new housing at Fenton’s Farm. It now seems, however, that the development at Fenton’s Farm is still being considered and alarming plans for 17 homes have also been presented to the residents of Whelnetham.
A Care Home facility in Whelnetham would, potentially, free up a number of houses in the village as the elderly give up their homes and move into such a facility. Great emphasis is placed by the Havebury Housing Partnership on providing affordable homes for local people so that they do not have to move out of the area. The ‘elderly’ is seems will have no such option. By 2031 the numbers of elderly will rise significantly. Whelnetham ‘had’ a facility for the elderly. The PC was shown plans for Erskine Lodge to be redeveloped into a modern ‘care’ facility. These plans just disappeared and the idea was dropped. The residents that left Erskine Lodge a couple of years ago were told that the facility would be redeveloped and that they would be able to return.
Where will the elderly of Whelnetham go when they cannot care for themselves?
The local school is full to bursting point and is situated in a site that provides no parking facilities. Parking issues at the school dominate PC meetings and no adequate solution has been found. Erskine Lodge would be an ideal site for a new school or school extension.
We would stress that no public consultation has taken place as to the correct use of this site.
The Development Brief
Firstly, there is no mention of the amount of houses proposed for the site in the brief yet the accompanying letter from Infinity mentions 65 homes. So we can assume that we are dealing with a proposal for 65 homes. Plus we cannot ignore the plans for 17 homes at Fenton’s Farm. 82 new homes for a village consisting of only 400 or so houses with a population of fewer than 1,000.
We would point out that St Edmundsbury’s Core Strategy document talks about ‘key settlements’ having a maximum of 75 new homes. Whelnetham is NOT a key settlement.
82 homes equates to 200 or more new residents. A 25% increase. The PC is not ‘against’ an increase, the PC is not against the provision of affordable housing. The PC totally rejects plans to expand our ‘village’ by 25%.
Back to the Development Brief
The document itself is very difficult to follow and written in ‘planning gobbledegook’. It refers to policies and strategies and documents that we have no knowledge of. It uses terms like ‘low density’ and ‘high density’ which are meaningless to the public. It talks of ‘relevant design guidance’ but does not tell us what that is.
The Context Analysis
A beautiful description of a Suffolk village and its varied housing. It does not mention that there are currently no flats or maisonettes in the village.
Proportions and Setting
‘The proposed development will draw upon the elements of design that form Great Whelnetham’s essential character’. Once again, there are no flats or maisonettes in the village.
Character and Appearance
‘The height, scale and massing of individual buildings should respond positively to the existing form of development in the area’. The site of Erskine Lodge is placed directly above housing on the main road. Erkine Lodge is a single storey structure yet it can still be seen towering over the housing below. The ‘height’ of any new buildings should respond to the site and not to other buildings in the area. Two storey buildings would be totally unsuitable for this site.
There are no cycle paths in Whelnetham. There is no cycle path to Bury St Edmunds. There is a limited bus service in the area. There are no buses on Sundays. The village shop is not open on Sunday. There are limited employment opportunities in Whelnetham. You cannot get back to Whelnetham from Bury St Edmunds after 6.30pm using public transport.
82 new homes will bring 150 plus cars into the area. Whilst new housing developments should not be dominated by the car it is fair to say that 150 cars will have to be parked somewhere. The plans presented by Havebury at a recent meeting at the Community Centre painted a cosy picture of a village with the odd car. We ask the question – where are 150 cars going to be parked?
Residents on both Hambrook Close and Stanningfield Road have expressed concerns with regards to an increased flooding risk in the area. We have all suffered from the changes in climate that bring us regular torrents of rain. Many residents have had to take preventative measures to divert rain water from their properties. Building another 82 new homes in the area is not going to ‘improve’ this problem. One resident has pointed out that the local council have not been able to prevent flooding at the roundabout on the A134 close to the rugby club. If engineers can’t fix that problem how are we going to convince residents that their fears are unfounded?
The need for new ‘open market homes’
We do not believe that there is any need for additional ‘open market housing’. It has been mentioned that ‘open market housing’ will ‘facilitate’ the building of affordable homes. We would point out that Havebury Housing Partnership have received a grant of £8 million pounds to help ‘facilitate’ the building of affordable homes. Havebury are looking to build 400 affordable homes and that equates to almost £20,000 per property. If they build 24 new homes on this site they will receive a grant of almost £500,000 to do so. There is no need to build ‘open market’ houses if this grant is used correctly.
The PC would suggest that the proposals for Fenton’s Farm, Erskine Lodge and the land adjacent to Erskine Lodge should be considered as ‘one’. A maximum of 24 new homes would be appropriate for the village. We feel that the Erskine Lodge situation gives the village a site for these new homes. It is, essentially, a brown field site. 24 homes could be accommodated on the same ‘footprint’ of Erskine Lodge. There is no need for more housing in the area. 24 homes is, in its self, a large increase for such a small village. The PC was happy to endorse the ‘change of use’ for Erskine Lodge as it would be a development that would alleviate the need to develop Fenton’s Farm. The PC did not envisage that we would be faced with three developments. The PC did not envisage the scale of such developments.
We would also like guarantees that the new affordable homes are offered to residents of Whelnetham.