Melton Hill – Woodbridge should plan for its future!

Melton Hill – the current plan. Delusions of cityscape: Giant single slope roofed towers – suitable for an urban setting but totally out of place in tiny Woodbridge dwarf the town and overlook all neighbouring housing.

Over a hundred people have so far made a  submission to the District Council about the “cheese wedges” that are the Melton Hill development. I will be writing one too –  in which I’ll cover issues I’ve mentioned elsewhere.

But here I want to speak  as  your County Councillor,  turning from the subject of design to purpose – and  the propriety of the District wanting to monetise this site instead of looking at the legacy benefits of providing for local people.

Remember, Melton Hill isn’t owned by the district– it is held in trust for us by our elected and appointed servants. How on earth have we got into the situation where these servants are doing a deal with themselves to hock it off for the biggest possible profit? And how can this be the best outcome for the rest of us?

Every week, I talk to families who’ve lived in Woodbridge for generations but whose children and grandchildren are excluded from their hometown. Disabled people who have to leave their support network. Old people who can’t even afford to downsize in the town in which they’ve spent their lives. Yet our medieval streets are increasingly full of – not even second homes – but holiday lets, serving no residential purpose whatsoever.

Everyone who lives in Woodbridge needs the services of those who have been displaced – and who have to come in by car, adding to already-chronic traffic and air quality problems.

Woodbridge doesn’t need more high end housing. It absolutely does need housing at social rent (that’s 65% of market rental value)  and lots of it, to help house all those people we rely on. Retained firefighters, low-paid care workers, young families and teachers who cant afford to live near our schools. Nurses, police, paramedics… I could go on.  Since ‘right-to-buy’ , Woodbridge has lost more and more of the key rental sector stock needed to support these key workers in the town

The sale of Melton Hill can’t go through until and unless planning permission is granted by the very council that profits from the sale. How can this not be a conflict of interest? The current development should not go ahead on these grounds alone!

And the District Council must be persuaded to think differently. That current promise of 33 affordable units (80% of market rental price – which may, as in other cases diminish or disappear during development) – that isn’t the answer. For a start, it isnt enough. Local people -people who have paid their council tax to fund Melton Hill – have significant unmet needs. Why don’t we start from there?.

The District Council must be persuaded to recognise the legacy benefits of making the Melton Hill site into, say, a Community Land Trust to provide housing at social, not affordable, rent to ensure that Woodbridge remains  the living, breathing town it currently is.

I’m therefore  asking Woodbridge Town Council to reject this application and to urge the District council to re-evaluate their priorities and move in the direction I have suggested to develop the site.

Schedule of trees we suddenly discover are to be felled for the Melton Hill development. I note with extreme sadness they include two black mulberries

This is the speech I made to Woodbridge Town Council’s Planning Committee this evening.
The meeting was attended by sixty or seventy residents, of whom ten  or so spoke . Their concerns about the site covered appearance, accessibility, loss of the trees, loss of amenity, change to the appearance of the town and impact transport and on air quality . The Committee rejected the plan unanimously.
However – Woodbridge Town Council is just a statutory consultee. The final decision is made by the Councillors on Suffolk Coastal’s Planning Committee.

Keep those letters coming in, folks

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The ‘Giant Cheese Wedges’ at Melton Hill: Have your say, FAST

The planning application for SCDC’s Melton Hill site  (aka the ©Giant Cheese Wedges) was
officially  deposited and validated a week ago, on Friday 30 June. Seemingly, it then took nearly a week to appear online- although the public has only 20 days from the date of validation to comment. This means you have 13 days from today to write to SCDC and comment on the application. Get your skates on, folks. Link here:

Demolish all of the existing offices and surrounding buildings on the site and replace with a high quality housing development providing 100 residential units (33 affordable) (C3) together with a community building (D1) and a retail unit that may be a coffee shop (A1/2/3) or retail unit. A landscape environment free from cars as they are located in an underground car park. Means of access and other associated works. Open for CommentFormer Council Offices Melton Hill Melton Woodbridge Suffolk IP12 1AURef. No: DC/17/2840/FUL | Received: Fri 30 Jun 2017 | Validated: Fri 30 Jun 2017 | Status: Awaiting decision

You may find it quite time-consuming to make your way through the documents as presented online- but the Town Clerk’s office at Woodbridge Town Council has kindly printed out hard copies –  you can go and examine them down there. I warn you, the site elevation showing what the development will look like from the Thoroughfare/Melton Road – although shown in the architect’s plans – is mysteriously absent. So here it is again:

Melton Hill current plan – Delusions of cityscape: Giant single slope roofed towers – suitable for an urban setting but rather out of place in tiny Woodbridge dwarf the town and overlook all neighbouring housing

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I have advised in my previous post on the subject – http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2017/06/25/melton-hill-development-attack-of-the-giant-cheese-wedges/ – your District Councillor, Cllr Mulcahy appears to be the only  one of the Woodbridge District  Councillors you elected who is in a position to help you.  Do ask for her assistance.

However, do ensure you also send in your comments, in person.

The original Melton Hill ‘Community Consensus masterplan’ 2016. Note the trees, frontage and Drummer Boy all in place. 70-odd units. No suggestion anywhere of 6 storey towers.

When commenting, there are many issues:   the impact on historic skylines and views (for example, from Sutton Hoo);  the appropriateness of the current ‘vision’; its huge and unexplained difference from the ‘Community Consensus Masterplan‘ agreed by the people of Woodbridge in autumn 2016, which left the original frontage , trees and Drummer Boy as is (they are all now swept away without explanation, replaced with a concierge block that beggars belief); the introduction of 5 and 6 storey tower blocks; the limited amount of parking planned, which clearly will not serve the number of homes planned and the realistic number of cars and visitors that need catering for; the increase of nearly 50% in the number of properties being proposed (the excess explained by being described as ‘affordable’; the kind of housing being envisioned (‘affordable’ is  defined as 80% of market price. This might mean properties costing up to £700,00-£800,000 at Woodbridge’s current pricing); the impact of this additional housing on the traffic and air quality of an area which already has significant and so far insoluble air quality problems; the propriety of SCDC wanting to monetise this site instead of looking at the legacy benefits of providing for younger, less affluent people, young families, disabled people, and those wanting to downsize within the town they grew up in.

However, amongst these important issues, the most significant issue must be that the sale of the site – by SCDC -can’t go through unless and until planning permission- granted by SCDC – goes through. And if that doesn’t constitute the biggest conflict of interests going- I don’t know what does!

So folks, please, please, sit down and write to SCDC fast. If you want guidance on how best to comment, SCDC provides it (click here)

There will be a meeting of Woodbridge Town Council’s planning Committee on Tuesday 18th July. You can attend (please do). You can speak your mind (if you book a space with the clerk first). But don’t mistake this for action. Woodbridge Town Council is merely a statutory  consultee. Telling them will do little but make you feel better. To have any impact you HAVE to contact Suffolk Coastal and give them reasoned arguments as to why this scheme should not go ahead . “I don’t like the look of it” will not cut the mustard. #justsaying

  • A final point. Having invented it, I really really regret I didn’t copyright   the term “Giant Cheese Wedges“.  If I had, I could have become rich. RICH, I say!  And then I could have bought the site  myself, and transformed it into fair rent and truly affordable housing for truly local young families, disabled people and older people wanting to downsize without penalty – which is what Woodbridge really needs and deserves!
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I’m Speaking up for Women

Caroline Page, County Councillor, Woodbridge; LibDem Green & Independent Spokesperson for Women

When the Suffolk County Council LibDem Green and Independent Group was formed, I was appointed Group Spokesperson for Women. The first and only Group in this county to have one.

Interesting, because there IS no Suffolk County Cabinet member for Women for me to shadow.

So why am I spokesperson? Because there is no Suffolk County Cabinet member for Women for me to shadow.

Suffolk is not only a county in which it isn’t good to be a girl or woman, Suffolk is a county that is not even aware of the fact.

When I checked charity Plan  International UK’s statistics last September and discovered Suffolk was a poor place to be a girl (in terms of important measures: Child Poverty, NEET, Teenage pregnancy, GCSEs and Life Expectancy) both Suffolk’s County Cabinet and officers were lost for words. It clearly was not the kind of info they collected. They have yet to get back to me as to what they will do about it.

Again, when I broke the news that 1 in 2 of 59 year old women were unpaid family carers (odds not shared by men until they were 75) this came as a complete surprise to those who represent the people of Suffolk. Despite the fact this will have a huge impact on working-aged women’s careers, incomes, life outcomes, and PENSIONS – and that too much of what is heard about  #WASPI debate has been along the lines of “Diddums. Why shouldn’t you women expect to be equal to us men?” (Men, I ask you, why isn’t 1 in 2 of you a family carer at 59? Is it because you want a decent pension pot? Yes? Well,  I have every sympathy. I want one too!).

Instead of addressing the inequity, the men who run Suffolk’s finances don’t notice it and underspend on the family carers’ budget to fund its social care programme…

When  a former Mayor of Woodbridge was asked why there were no blue plaques to women in Woodbridge, he replied: “Maybe women have never done anything.” Really and truly. This in Woodbridge which is represented by a woman MP, a woman County Councillor, and currently, a woman Mayor.

Seems that Suffolk – nursery of those indomitable seekers after equality, Elizabeth and Millicent Garrett – is in need of a reminder that equality is still a long way off.

So how do we create equality?

– Part of this is making an end of female objectification. A  good start would be universal application of my ‘Eric Pickles test ©“.  It goes: Would that headline/ad/statement make sense if it was about Eric Pickles? That photo of a “wardrobe malfunction”? that clickbait where someone “shows off their new, toned beach body”? that fitness ad about “getting a pert and peachy derriere”? Does it sound silly with Eric there? Yes? Well then, leave women out of it too, thank you very much. It encourages disrespect and disregard.

– Part of it is pointing out inequality in any arena. I have spent several years tweeting Radio4’s Today programme about their inability to distinguish between sport and men’s sport. With final success, but only after years when for weeks on end the only female name mentioned in their sports reports was the mare running in the 3.40 at Lingfield.

Unimportant? Only if you’re wanting to sustain a narrative of male importance and female inconsequence. I’m afraid it was constant nagging that did the trick with Radio 4. Sloppy journos who just want to talk to their chums shouldn’t be allowed to set the agenda. Because, the agenda set , suddenly the narrative is,  “nobody’s interested” (just like a playground bully saying “nobody likes you,”) – and blow me, fame and funding follow the narrative. The strongest woman in Britain lives in Melton. Did you even know that?

– Partly it is about defending the utter necessity for certain woman-specific provision. We can all dream of an equal society, but whilst 1 in 4 women experiences domestic violence, whilst one British woman is killed by a man – generally one she knows – every 2.4 days, women and children desperately need refuges,  support, safe spaces for access, and the funding for all this. Any meninists protesting equality will not make these requirements less needful, less vital.

And all people – men and women – who believe in equality realise this as truth.

But without a woman to speak up for equality in the Suffolk administration – what happens to it?  It is ‘assumed’ as existing without existing. The funding gets lost because the issue has no direct relevance to the men in charge – and the whole county suffers.

Sad but true.

And I am going to be here to carry on pointing it out, until the Suffolk  administration realises this too.

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Melton Hill development – attack of the giant cheese wedges?

What on  earth is happening down at Melton Hill, with the old Suffolk Coastal District Council office site?

Crucially, what on earth has happened to the consensus masterplan created after the Community Planning weekend? To remind  people, it looked like this, retaining the old buildings, the trees and the Drummer Boy at the front…

 

Now people are asking how – and by what stretch of whose fevered imagination – has this consensus magically transformed into the below (current) plans for Melton Hill?

Melton Hill current plan:  Docklands-by-the-estuary. Giant  5 &6 storey cheese wedges  – suitable for an urban setting but  out of place in tiny Woodbridge, dwarf the town and overlook all neighbouring housing as well as  impacting badly on the historic Sutton Hoo views.

All old buildings, trees and even the Drummer Boy have been demolished, cut down and removed in favour of giant  5 &6 storey cheese wedges  – suitable for an urban setting – that will dwarf the rest of the town, impact adversely on National Trust’s historic views of the  riverside and town from Sutton Hoo , alter completely and irrevocably the skyline of the town, and create a completely mendacious ‘piazza ‘ area pictured as a bustling metropolis with people dashing to and  fro. Strange. After all, who, apart from residents, is going to be walking in this large open space, and why?  We may suspect we are not in Kansas, Toto – but this is not  Docklands .

(Though one does wonder whether, in a couple of year’s that space may be earmarked to become another tower….)

Talk about  having “des idees audessous de sa gare!”

To top it all there is not enough parking allocated for the – greatly increased – (now there’s a surprise – how often does that happen in Suffolk?) number of residential units planned.  How will this impact on a town already chronically short of parking , and where the District Council Offices  have traditionally opened their car parks at the weekend for public events?

And who will be able to afford to live here?

So what should you do if you are concerned?

I would urge the residents of Woodbridge to take this matter up with their  District Councillor – but the democratic deficit that exists in this area since the last boundary changes  is so egregious as to hardly need mentioning. Instead of the four councillors you had- one for each ward (Farlingaye, Seckford, Kyson and Riverside) -you now have three for a larger Woodbridge and district:  Cllrs Hedgeley, Holdcroft and Mulcahy – all of one party, by your express wish. By an arrangement  they have between themselves, Cllr Hedgley deals with the rural villages, leaving Woodbridge town represented by Cllrs Holdcroft and Mulcahy.  And  Cllr Holdcroft (amidst a proliferation of other hats including Town Councillor) is SCDC Cabinet member and on the SCDC Planning Committee and is therefore unable to comment on planning matters. As I  say, this leaves you with a sgnificant democratic deficit.

All I can therefore do is to suggest you approach your one remaining available District Councillor  -Cllr Mulcahy-  to tell her what you think and ask her to take action on your behalf over this!

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The situation of carers in Suffolk

EADT’s coverage of the problems faced by Carers

Brilliant to see the EADT taking the issues faced by unpaid carers – particularly working-age women – so seriously.

Their coverage  today:

http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/carers-don-t-want-cake-they-want-realistic-support-says-campaigning-councillor-1-5074532

highlights many of  the problems and inequities faced by women carers  in Suffolk: longterm stress,  poverty, loss of career, pension, loneliness, the often infantile and wholly inadequate nature of the ‘support’ on offer.

And as the LibDem Green and Independent Group’s spokesperson for Women I suggest the problems experienced by carers would be less hidden if Suffolk County Council made themselves more aware of the challenges facing women in the county!

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Caroline Page, County Councillor for Woodbridge