Two weeks ago I wrote to JTP, asking the named contact they gave these important questions about the process by which the Community Consensus Masterplan transformed itself into the very different plans submitted:
“I’ve just been reading the email from JTP detailing the pre-application process leading to Active Urban’s current application for planning permission to develop the Melton Hill site in Woodbridge.
Your name has been given as a contact should I have any questions. I have several, which I would be grateful for you to answer. As follows:
In this email you mention,
- The creation of a “community vision”…
My question a) What exactly were the requirements listed by the community for their “community vision”? Could you provide the full list of those requirements articulated by the community in their vision for the site ( the list you provide is cherrypicked). To what extent was the full list used in the development of the design that followed?
- a pre-application process was set up and the design of the scheme evolved …”taking into consideration the Vision and outcomes from the Community Planning Weekend” and that “the strength of the initial concepts, ideas and feedback from the general public has remained intact throughout this process
My question b) could you demonstrate how the vision and outcomes of the community planning weekend were taken into consideration, and explain how the strength of the initial concepts, ideas and feedback from the general public has remained intact throughout this process? It wuld be good to check off the outcomes against a full list of community requirements
- “an independent Design Review Panel was held on 3rd October 2016.”
My question c) please could you provide the full membership by name, occupation and company of this Independent Design Review panel?
- that “the Panel felt the scheme had great potential to make a positive contribution to the town and appreciated the ambition of both the client and architect.
My question d) Can you explain why this first panel “appreciated the ambition of both the client (presumably the District Council rather than the local community) and the architect ” yet the wishes of the community are not even mentioned? Can you demonstrate that the ambition of the client and architect is to represent the wishes of the ultimate owners or the local community? Could you articulate in what way it will make a positive contribution to the town?
- that a second Design Review Panel with more developed designs was held on 2nd February 2017.
My question e) please could you provide the full membership by name, occupation and company of this second Independent design review panel?
My question f) Can you explain the exact status of these two Independent design review panels you have mentioned – (both the one that met on 3 Oct 2916 and that which met on 2 Feb 2017)? Their existence appears to constitute something of an anomaly: if a panel were wholly independent it might not be fully aware of local issues. If aware of local issues it would not be wholly independent.
- and that “The Panel acknowledged the design changes and the significant amount of work undertaken in developing the design. The overall change of scale, removal of buildings and redesign to the Melton Hill streetscape was suggested as “showing a fantastic improvement“.
My question g) You quote from the conclusions of the second panel – a panel that seems quite content with a mass destruction of trees and buildings. Firstly ‘a fantastic improvement’ on what? The Community Vision? An unseen design? Secondly “overall change of scale, removal of buildings and redesign to the Melton Hill streetscape” – are these in context of the Community vision or from a second unseen design?
Thirdly, who uttered these words? The people of Woodbridge absolutely need chapter and verse on the origin and relevance of every part of the last 22 word sentence, phrased so conveniently in the passive voice. If it is a quote, somebody said it – and we need to know who and in what context. Such destructive decision-makers need to be named (– and if happy with their decision will have no problem with being so named)!
I await your speedy reply with interest
I received a telephone call a few days later from the gentleman in question, who was eager to tell me that a) he could tell me about the destination of the Drummer Boy (not, note, a question I had asked); b) none of this was his personal responsibility and c) there was going to be affordable housing in the development but that as d) he was down in Winchester he would not be able to answer my full list of written questions in written form very fast, certainly not for several weeks.
In the interests of transparency we need to know the answers to all these questions.
I have therefore included them as “unanswered’ in my submission to the District Council.
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
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. Former 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:
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.
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!
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?
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!