It appears that we are reverting to feudal times in a small rural village in Suffolk where planning is concerned.
Landowners are putting in a series of planning applications for hundreds of homes in fields all around the village. If allowed to build, they would overwhelm it.
A deregulated planning process and government targets are driving over development with no strategic development plan. The result is a landowner/developer gold rush, unleashed on the village without regard for residents or the environment.
Fressingfield is a village of around 440 homes set in rolling farmland with plenty of heritage and an attractive character. It is made up of people from many backgrounds with a good sense of community. The nearest town is four-and-a-half miles away. Yet in the space of a year, it has become a target on a map for major housing developments.
A spirited campaign led by dedicated villagers has taken off to get fairness, balance and rational argument into the picture. Objections have poured in and a large petition has been lodged with Mid Suffolk District Council and MP Dan Poulter, who says he supports the villagers.
The parish council is objecting to all the new applications and has spoken out against any more development for 10 years. Village meetings have been packed with people opposing the applications and the fight for Fressingfield’s heart and soul is well under way.
Not long ago, the village agreed to take its fair share of 50 new homes, of which 47 now have permission, so to consider hundreds more with no sustainable plan goes against natural justice and reason.
There has been no community consultation and agents’ exhibitions on proposals have been misleading and irrelevant. Amenities have been added to plans and subtracted later on and the views and concerns of villagers have been ignored in the process. The current applications carry false information about public buses, while a small store has been called a “supermarket”. It begs the question of what else in them is untrue?
The village school and GP surgery will be full up with the 47 new houses to be built. Local jobs are few and roads are already overloaded and unsafe in places.
Little mention is made of the varied wildlife and habitats in long undisturbed fields marked for building. These fields define the village as part of a very rural area, not a town or sprawling suburbia, yet this small village is being treated as though it were a town with enough facilities and services for the many hundreds of prospective new residents.
No account is taken of its actual limitations and amenities, its rural character, landscape or heritage.
Such mistaken assessment and confusion has been allowed to continue unchecked by authorities who seem not to know or care what Fressingfield really is.
For Fressingfield and other rural places in Suffolk, the planning system is broken with an inundation of applications for wholly unsuitable development, and no overall plan or community involvement. The extreme push for housing is indiscriminate, incoherent and inconsistent. The council is paid by government to hit bigger targets for housing developments.
A recent Supreme Court judgement says that planners must take a balanced view and pay attention to policies which reflect the needs, character and community of an area. Whether this is possible in the twisted and obscure scheme of things remains to be seen.
The local need for affordable housing in Fressingfield would be met within the 47 new houses approved, but no one has yet explained who would live in all the hundreds more homes proposed for this little village without any capacity to support their needs.
Post Mill Lane
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