Category Archives: Suffolk Coastal District Council

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

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!

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!

What’s Been Happening: June – July 2015

Hot topics this month  are:  post-16 transport, a subscription scheme to replace free garden waste disposal, further cuts to the Fire service budget,  the new SCC Leader’s ‘Listening Days’  – and the fact that we underspend on our concessionary fares budget and have done so year after year , indeed apparently ever since we took over administration of the scheme from the district councils – despite the fact that successive SCC Cabinet members have told us that disabled people can’t possibly take the bus earlier ‘because it’s too expensive.’

Seems to me that that ‘too expensive’  is the kneejerk mantra of our administration –  without any investigation of whether this is the case or not (except when it comes to  certain things like Suffolk Circle..) What’s that quote about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing? This lot don’t even know the price!

Post-16 Education transport  Farlingaye High School has contacted me with concerns raised by individual parents concerning SCC’s new post-16 transport policy. Although the statutory school leaving age is 16, Raising the Participation age (RPA) has created a de facto statutory school leaving age of 18.This sits uneasily with SCC’s new post-16 transport policy, which, far from taking this into account offers less provision for post-16s than previously.

The county council has received no additional funding to support RPA. However, RPA is causing real issues for some families, particularly those on low income in rural communities and where there are no public services available that are timed to work with the school day.

I have asked SCC :Whether any scheduled public services that have been cut are being reinstated? Has SCC lobbied central government about the disparity of transport funding between  for example, London (whose Oyster card provides free travel for all young people funded from a disparate governmental grant allocation that provides much more per capita for Londoners) and rural counties, and what was the outcome? Has representation been made by SCC  to seek additional funding to support Raising the Participation Age?  The EADT published my letter on this issue last Friday.

More cuts to Suffolk Fire Service?  SCC are starting a public pre-consultation for changes to Suffolk Fire http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/consultations-petitions-and-elections/consultations/fire-service-redesign/  The ultimate intention is to cut another £1m of the already slimmed-down service.

Already Felixstowe Fire Station has ceased to have whole time Firefighters, and there has been a cut in the number of wholetime Firefighters across the county. As an example, on June 24th at 11:30 there were 10 Fire Stations off the run, including such stations as Hadleigh, Debenham, Framlingham and Aldeburgh. A further station was short-crewed meaning it could not attend property fires and a further 2 had appliances off the run.

I contacted CFO Hardingham to assess our local situation: as of the beginning of the month, there were13 firefighters at Woodbridge Fire Station, but they are in the process of interviewing for one more . The full complement is 14.

Proposals to end free garden waste collections in Suffolk Coastal (and other districts) Acting on advice from the Suffolk Waste Partnership, SCC is proposing to cut costs by moving the rest of the county to the Babergh/MidSuffolk system for collecting and treating organic (eg garden and some food ) waste. This would mean that the council reduces its subsidy to the minimum  for ‘free’ collections in other districts (such as Suffolk Coastal)  and supports a move to a subscription service – sharing the savings 50/50 with the relevant district councils. This would rely on an increase in individuals home composting.

This will depend on decisions of individual councils, but I gather that the subsidy will be reduced to statutory minimum whatever the outcome.

SCC underspent last financial year The financial outturn of SCC 2014-15  revealed that the revenue budget was underspent by £2.3 million (0.4% of the net budget)  and at the year end, £107.1m had been spent against the capital programme of £171.4m. This leaves reserves of £202.9 m.

Worrying  areas of underspend included  Early Years, Passenger Transport and Highways. Passenger Transport has underspent by half a million  – due to savings in the cost of concessionary travel. The Chief Accountant confirmed to me on 13th July that here has been a similar underspend in the cost of concessionary travel  every year since SCC has taken it over from the district council. Yet SCC has consistently refused to provide an earlier  start-time for travel for  Suffolk’s 7,000 disabled bus-pass holders on the  grounds of ‘cost’.

Health Scrutiny –mental health services  At the beginning of July, SCC health scrutiny looked at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s Service Strategy 2012-16  for mental health and what had been done to address the CQC’s findings of February 2015, when the Trust was rated as “Inadequate. The Committee was particularly concerned about the 24 hour CAMHS crisis care service, which was high priority and rated red, and asked for a progress report on this issue.

Leader’s Listening Days  Between now and October, SCC’s new leader Colin Noble is scheduling ‘We are Listening’ events in  Lowestoft, Haverhill, Felixstowe, Stowmarket, Ipswich, Sudbury, Beccles, and Newmarket. During these visits, he “wants to hear first-hand the issues and topics of interest for local council tax payers”

Although I have been unofficially told that he plans to be in Woodbridge on 19 September, (the date of my September surgery), I have not had this confirmed.  See more at http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/wearelistening

County Councillor’s Surgery Increasingly my surgery is bringing in constituents from outside my division, who want to speak to a County Councillor face-to-face. Two people  in two months have come from other parts of the country and have been incandescent about the lack of useful Tourist Information that is provided inside the Library on a Saturday despite the enormous SCDC notice outside, stating otherwise!

Surgery dates for the next few months are:  Saturday 20 June, and Saturday 18 July. I will take my customary  August break, before starting again on 19th September. Surgeries continue at Woodbridge Library 10-12 as ever.

HAPPY NEW YEAR- and greater justice for train travellers?

Its 2015 and at last the national media are catching up with reality and telling the world what we Woodbridge train users have been saying for a while:

You cannot get the cheapest and best fares for a journey from a self-service ticket machine. (Read the Telegraph’s take on it here) .

Am I cynical in thinking this omission isn’t accidental?  I’ve asked Abellio  Greater Anglia several times why they can’t sell the inexpensive and useful Day Ranger ticket from their machines -with no result whatsoever. (Indeed, I asked Andrew Goodrum, Abellio Customer Service Director -in person – about this on two different occasions when I met him, and got two differing answers. Neither one of which was “Yes, of course. We will naturally ensure the people  of Suffolk have access to Abellio’s cheapest and best means of getting around their network from the machines on our stations.”  You can argue that you can buy a ticket on the train if you get on at Woodbridge. Not if you get on at Ipswich. So, if the queues are endless, you lose your chance of the best ticket price. Which is very unfortunate – but not for Abellio.)

Nationally, the movers and shakers are belatedly becoming aware that their chums in the rail companies are fleecing ordinary travellers. Self-service machines — which are used to purchase almost a quarter of all tickets sold annually — offer wildly differing fares , adding as much as £100 to some journeys. I could tell you that. (In fact, I  seem to remember making the exact £100 point on Twitter, over the fare to Nottingham from Woodbridge, only last month) Now,  the country’s first rail fare code of conduct has established that from March, all self-service ticket machines will be required to tell customers if there is a potential cheaper fare available and direct them to a ticket office. What a terrible shame that Woodbridge no longer has a ticket office. We had one. It was in the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) controversially closed by Suffolk Coastal District Council two years ago. It is now a flower shop.