A C T I O N E A S T B E R G H O L T
LINKS TO PRESS ARTICLES ABOUT THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT:
"Some more understanding and less presumption from Mr Barrett would yield mutually better results."
Reply letter in the EADT, 13th Jan 2016, from Peter Dent
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"It is only proper that Mr Barrett should now venture South of the A12 and personally explain his contentious views to us at a suitable venue, say in East Bergholt?"
Reply letter in the EADT, 14th Jan 2016, from Steven Whalley
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Daily Telegraph 26-12-2015
SIR – A “joint housing needs” survey was conducted in Suffolk last year. In total, 25 per cent of homes were sent a form, of which 20 per cent replied.
This response represents less than 5 per cent of the households in Suffolk, and yet it will be used as “evidence” to justify the building of more housing.
New homes funding changes the nature of rural councils
EADT Tuesday Dec 15 2015 p30
The introduction of the New Homes Bonus (NHB) as a means of funding councils will radically change the way in which local planning is conducted. Every time the council approves a new house it receives a yearly NHB amount equal to the average council tax band in the area, typically £1,000, lasting for six years.
Simultaneously the government is steadily withdrawing annual revenue grants to councils which were not exclusively linked to new house builds. In order for councils to maintain their income they are therefore compelled to build and collect the equivalent shortfall with NHB payments.
To show the typical effect using Babergh District Council figures, the financial plan shows the revenue grant reducing from £1.6m in 2015/16 down to £0.2m in 2018/19. The expected NHB is respectively £2m going up to £2.6m. From the two there is a net shortfall of £0.8m; the projected NHB revenue will not be enough.
The numbers of houses completed is projected to surge to 591 in 2016/17 from the historical rate of about 291 in 2013/14, a near doubling of the rate. This is not only insufficient to replace the lost revenue grant, but with the NHB applying for only six years it implies that the same or even higher rate of building must be continuously achieved, unless some other revenue streams are generated.
In order to get as many houses finished, councils are moving towards permissions for very much larger plots. Instead of the preferred style of village development of ten to fifteen houses built at a time, responding to demand, located separately, and spaced over a number of years, we have wholesale urbanised and intrusive vistas with at least a tenfold increase in numbers.
The financial aspects of the larger developments are such that they may attract not just the national developers, but property financiers from abroad. A 150 property development at one third of a million each is about £50m sales, and with three or four a year in Babergh alone, attracts profitable investments on £200m combined annual sales. As a side effect, small scale local builders may not be able to manage these bigger deals.
NHB is a variable source of funding being dependent on the state of the notoriously fickle housing market, but the worst aspect of introducing NHB is that it alters the nature of rural councils. They will take on some of the role of a developer organisation, forever looking to the next opportunity to build regardless of proven need or impact on the rural environment. We should be aware of the conflict of interest between NHB funding and the democratic integrity of the planning system.
New homes bonus an increased risk
EADT Wed 23rd Dec
In my letter to the EADT, Opinion and comment Tuesday 15th Dec, I outlined the threat of a distortion to rural councils’ planning, through the New Homes Bonus (NHB)substituting for reduced grants from the government. Not only does this open up the already pressured council revenue streams to the vagaries of housing market swings, but worryingly the influencing factors on planning decisions will no longer be isolated from the state of the council finances.
The outcome of this could be that the protection which we have enjoyed against rampant and highly inappropriate developments in villages and the countryside, would be summarily jettisoned. There would inevitably be a growing preference for large developments and quick returns, placed without regard for practical values or aesthetic sensibilities.
The NHB scheme as it stands now has the potential to seriously blight communities, but on Thursday 17th Dec, the Department for Communities and Local Government, issued a consultation document to update the NHB with some disturbing new proposals. The payment period is to be reduced from six years to four, the payment to be made only for housing showing a stronger than average growth, and abatement of the bonus if permission is granted on appeal. This will only serve to accelerate the negative impacts of the NHB.
We may now hold to a cherished vision of a countryside of isolated small villages left to grow at a natural pace in keeping with their ability to absorb change. Instead, we could be witnessing a relentless transformation into baleful vistas of copycat developments, disjoint from any sense of harmony, and solely mandated by the top down notions of development-led councils.
Road safety of large developments
EADT Tuesday 5th Jan 2016
The proposed development at Chilton Woods of up to 1250 houses on the outskirts of Sudbury, is located next to the road linking between Bury St. Edmunds and Colchester. Not only will the houses add to the traffic on this busy bypass road, but it divides the housing off from easy pedestrian or bicycle access to the rest of Sudbury, thereby encouraging use of cars or requiring a very good quality bus service.
The same is true of many of the other unprecedentedly large developments now being instituted in Suffolk over the next few years. At Brantham the 350 houses under consideration will increase and interrupt the traffic on the already congested access to Manningtree station. Lawford, on the other side of the station from Brantham, is also expanding rapidly and adding to the bottleneck. The proposal for 144 homes at Moores Lane East Bergholt, on the ‘B’ road between the A12 and Brantham, will see yet more vehicles traversing the village to the Manningtree pinchpoints.
There will be congestion from the combined traffic, but it is the detailed safety issues which are more concerning. The quarter mile stretch of road adjacent to Moores Lane currently has two roads joining it. The development site will add three new access junctions, five driveways, three new uncontrolled pedestrian crossings, a reduced width road, and relocate the two bus stops. There will then be fifteen overlapping hazards for motorists to negotiate, instead of just four spaced out. The site is distant from the village centre, and is served by one footpath crossing at least three roads.
An unwanted consequence of the hasty attempts to graft new estates onto already well utilised local roads, could be the introduction of urban style accident blackspots fronting along such developments.
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