Sunday, April 28, 2019

An unfortunately timed planning application...

Early April, with nominations for the District and Parish Councils closed, and a sense of hiatus, as we wait to see who our new District Councillors might be - Creeting St Peter has moved from the old Stowupland Ward to a new, two-member, Needham Market Ward. And then, a somewhat unexpected event, a planning application that impacts directly on the village core.

The key roads in the village are three in number. Pound Road, which becomes Creeting Lane as it leaves the village, runs through the middle, and is our connection to the outside world in both directions - north towards Stowupland, south towards Stowmarket and Needham Market. Two roads runs broadly eastwards off it, The Lane from the centre of the village, and a private road to Roydon Hall Farm about 150 yards further north. The U-shape that they form encloses an area of meadow, access to which is only possible through a house on Pound Road called, aptly, Meadows.

The planning application is an interesting one, seeking to demolish “Meadows” and replace it on the site with five four-bedroomed houses - executive homes, I guess you’d call them. The meadow is to be left untouched, although the design of the application is such that the option of extending into the meadow (which is much larger) remains open.

Five houses isn’t very much, I hear you say, and in that sense, you’d be right. Except that there are only seventy or so houses in the village, many of which are single storey and certainly smaller than four bedrooms. In addition, the village is designated as non-viable by the District Council, lacking as it does any facilities or services. 

It was clear that this was going to be controversial, and it was agreed that an Extraordinary Parish Council would be needed. Social media (yes, we have well established village Facebook and WhatsApp groups) was already abuzz, especially as the meadow borders many village homes.

As Chair, my job was to remain calm, work with our Clerk to organise a meeting and invite residents to take part and make their voices heard. There was only one minor complication - I wasn’t going to be available to take the chair due to a prior engagement. It was all slightly awkward.

Luckily, as previously mentioned, my Vice Chair is perfectly capable, as is our Clerk, and so, having indicated what I thought needed doing in advance, I left it to my colleagues to handle things.

The report from the meeting was interesting. Twenty-three residents had turned out for the meeting, or in other words, twenty-two more than we usually get, and there was some quite robust, and well-founded, criticism of the proposed development. A view was taken as to a formal response from the Parish Council, and Richard, my Vice Chair, set to work afterwards drafting our submission to the District Council.

It was an impressive effort, and the follow up was just what you would hope for, with engagement with our District Councillor (who added his own elegantly drafted suggestions) and all those who participated in the meeting. Frankly, I can’t see that I could have done a better job.

And so, Creeting St Peter Parish Council Fulfilled its obligations as a statutory consultee. That doesn’t sound very dramatic, or big, or important, but to the residents of the village, it is a demonstration of what we do, quietly, meeting after meeting. It also, I hope, reassures them that the Parish Council is in good hands, which is important to me and my colleagues.

And now we await the response of the District Council. They haven’t always been seen to serve us well, particularly in terms of enforcement, but they have a District Plan, a five year supply of housing plots, and the law on their side.

Let’s hope that they see it our way...

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