Diss residents meet the men with bungalow plans for historic Parish Fields
More than 70 people packed the Corn Hall council chamber in Diss this week for a discussion and presentation of plans to build 24 retirement bungalows on Parish Fields..
The land, which is privately owned, is described by experts as having significant historic and ecological value, and contains a grazing meadow, veteran trees, bramble patches and wildlife, connected with local gardens.
Scott Properties, who are acting as both agents and developers for the bungalow scheme, told the meeting on Wednesday, a key influence, which had 'tipped the balance' on its decision to relaunch the bungalow plans, and which had been 'instigated by the landowner', was last year’s Diss and District neighbourhood plan survey.
They told the meeting that in Question 14 of the public consultation, regarding local issues, 86 per cent of respondents, out of 695, supported the idea of unlocking the land for public access.
The figure was immediately questioned by members of the public as to whether this was to simply reopen the land, and, or, to build on it.
But the precise wording of the question was not at hand.
Town mayor Trevor Wenman told the public the council was there simply to listen to early stage plans.
Parish Fields has been the subject of planning applications to turn it build a Waitrose, a care home, self-build properties, housing and a gated-community for the elderly – all of which were rejected.
Diss resident, David Whatley, an artist at designgermakers21, on St Nicholas Street, Diss, was moved to speak, when it was revealed a certain amount of trees would need to be removed.
"Are you aware of the historic nature of that line of trees," he said.
"I think you need to do a little bit more research into why there is so much interest in the piece of land. It is a historic piece of Diss.
"You do make reference to the historic core of Diss, but this should be in your mind as to what this represents and it is a historic site which shouldn't just be used in your formula as any other green open space
"I have read through the proposal and it does seem as though you've missed the special nature of this piece of land; it is exceptional, and I think your normal terms of reference should set to one side because they do not apply .
"Once you have chopped half of a very important site, by 45 per cent, you have taken it away, you have ruined it. That is why there is so much concern."
Cllr Trevor Wenman, who later in the meeting stepped up to become the council's new leader, and having allowed Mr Whatley to speak outside of the designated public time slot, said: "I let you talk, and I shouldn't have done - but that is a point that has gone straight to the heart of the whole application."
Scott Properties replied: "We will listen to what everyone has to say, review that together with the scheme, and once we feel there is something that we believe is a fair compromise, if you like, we will then submit a pre-application and we will then be looking to have a public consultation, potentially, within two to three months."
Under the outline proposals, 45pc of the site would be developed with new pathways to Mount Street and Shelfanger Road.
It prompted one resident, with security fears, to express concern it could even become a drug den.
Cllr Trevor Wenman said the wording of Question 14 of the neighbourhood plan, to which 86% of respondents had agreed, needed clarification.
Another resident asked if there had been a reptile survey, stating there are newts in the grounds.
Scott Properties, added: "This project is way off from happening, or even being a real planning application and there is a lot of work to be done.
"This is relatively early stages, and I think it's great everyone everyone is having their say - but truthfully that is one of many question we will have to answer through this process."
Prior the meeting, Mr Whatley, said the Parish Fields had in the 19th century been a model for the french, Ferme Ornee (Ornate Farm), a technique of landscaping originating from the tradition of the ornamental gardens of England.
A previous application in the early 1990s prompted an exhibition to which residents contributed their memories and knowledge of this piece of Diss.
Read the exact wording of Question 14 in the current edition of the Diss Express, along with more details about what is being planned, what geoconservationist and former museum curator Tim Holt-Wilson had to say, and this newspaper's own opinion on perhaps what could be the partial loss of this historic piece of Diss.