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.
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