While the rest of us are in lockdown – developers have been hard at work pushing forward proposals and seeking to finalise planning permission on a number of controversial developments on the Felixstowe peninsula.
At a time when emergency measures have had to be brought in to discuss planning applications – public meetings are banned and it is very difficult for town and parish councils to organise a response – developers are trying to secure final permission on a number of sites.
1) Garden Neighbourhood Scheme
In what is the first phase of the ironically named ‘garden neighbourhood scheme’ Persimmon Homes, who already have planning consent agreed by government following an appeal against the council’s refusal for 560 houses on part of the site off Candlet and Gulpher Roads, has now applied for permission for the final designs for the 262-home first phase, ranging from one to five-bed and a mixture of open market, shared ownership and rent, along with items such as a pumping station, access and landscaping.
East Suffolk Council has said it wants to negotiate with landowners to draw up a master plan for the 353-acre scheme at Felixstowe – but Persimmon Homes are keen to push ahead with the first phase of 262 homes before a blueprint is agreed.
The ‘garden neighbourhood’ will stretch from the Eastward Ho playing fields behind Links Avenue to the A14 Dock Spur roundabout and as well as 2,000 houses will include a new £20million sports complex, community hub and 630-place primary school.
The land – mostly farmland but including an equestrian area, small businesses and a former golf driving range – is currently in several different ownerships and the council is keen to draw them together to agree the release of the land and a co-ordinated development.
Persimmon said there would be ample public space within its part of the overall development.
It said: “The public open space is divided into two main areas, the first at the end of the main access road into the development and the second in a central location around the existing pond.
“The open space is located on the highest part of the site with the residential parcels on the lower ground to better integrate the development within its surroundings and take advantage of natural screening features. Existing planting along the northern and eastern boundaries would be augmented with new tree planting which would help to screen the development and soften the impact of the development.”
2) Martello Park Beachfront Cafe
Meanwhile progress is being made, once again behind closed doors, on a scheme to create a beachside café/restaurant as part of a multi-million pound seafront regeneration project.
Council leaders have been holding confidential discussions after an appeal for companies and individuals to come forward to take on the new attraction.
The architects for the café/restaurant on Martello Park have submitted construction plans showing proposals for the works compound and detailing how the fan-shaped property will be built.
East Suffolk Council has secured a £950,000 grant from the Coastal Communities Fund to help build the venue but has not revealed how much interest the project has generated following a national promotion campaign by its agents Fleurets.
A spokesman for ESC said: “As a council we are excited about bringing this new development to the south seafront and plans are still going ahead despite the COVID-19 outbreak.
However, residents at Martello Park have bitterly opposed the development stating there was no mention of it when they bought their properties
3) Trimley St Martin Poultry Farm
Finally proposals have been submitted for seven bungalows on the site of a former poultry farm by applicant James Coulson– currently occupied by chicken sheds and old farm buildings – in High Road, Trimley St Martin.
The site adjoins land earmarked by Trinity College. Cambridge, for 360 homes on Howlett Way.
The seven bungalows would be two two-bed, four three-bed and one four-bed properties, plus 19 parking spaces.
Planning Meetings – New Rules
So what about the democratic process and our rights to object to these proposals?
In the light of Government advice ESC have taken the decision to cancel all Planning Committee meetings (North and South) until the end of April.
There is, however, a requirement to continue making decisions on the applications that are scheduled to be determined by one of the Planning Committees so The council’s Head of Legal and Democratic Services agreed, on Friday, with the Leader of the Council, the Chairman of PCN, the Chairman of the PCS, the Portfolio Holder for Planning and the Chief Executive Officer that they temporarily increase the delegations to the Head of Planning and Coastal Management (HPCM), so that he can decide planning applications, in consultation with Advisory Panels (APs).
To aid the Head of Planning and Coastal Management in reaching a decision on applications, the council will publish committee style reports for those applications to be considered at an Advisory Panel as usual on the council’s Committee Management Information System (CMIS), at least five working days before the relevant Advisory Panel meets.
East Suffolk Council guidelines as stated on its website are:
‘On publication of the reports on CMIS all relevant ward members and town or parish councils, along with the applicant will be informed by email. They will then have an opportunity to provide further representations if they so decide, and be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org within five days. These representations will be published on CMIS as part of an update sheet. Any additional comments need to be received by midday the day before the scheduled meeting to be included on the update sheet. The Advisory Panel will meet by Skype/telephone and will advise the Head of Planning and Coastal Management who will then take in to account those views before making the determination. It must be noted that the Head of Planning and Coastal Management may decide to defer a determination and await the reinstatement of the Planning Committees. All decisions will be recorded and reported accordingly.
All information connected with planning applications is available online and it is for Town and Parish Councils – and other interested parties – to determine their own arrangements and respond in a timely way. Any person who has an interest in any application is able to respond in the usual manner and all responses will be picked up by the team without delay and logged against the application.
While many town and parish councils do engage with the community and seek their views, such engagement is not necessary to enable consultation responses to be provided and individual members of the public should continue to be encouraged to respond individually to enable their view to be heard.
Therefore, for the vast majority of applications, the Council does not see the need to extend the period of time to respond. However, there will be applications where exceptions need to be made which – for the avoidance of doubt – will be those of a major nature. In such circumstances please do liaise with the appointed case officer and where possible, we will look to accommodate those requests.’