Council’s high-handed attitude angers group

Long Melford residents fighting plans for 51 houses have criticised the district council’s attitude and lack of communication.

David Wilson Homes has submitted a planning application for the former Fleetwood Caravans factory site in Hall Street to Babergh District Council.

David Watts, chairman of the Fleetwood Caravan Neighbourhood Group, which is opposing the plans, said: “Last week, residents received their seventh consultation letter – three of which were sent in the last month.

“Why didn’t Babergh save costs and send out one letter after it had received all the amendments to the plans?”

Mr Watts said representatives from David Wilson Homes had met with planners on several occasions, while campaigners have been granted a private meeting – with Babergh officers, parish council members and independent highways consultant Create Consulting – only after months of requests.

“Letters and emails requesting information have gone unanswered,” said Mr Watts, who added that, while he understood the council was under no obligation to provide responses, he felt more communication would have been appropriate due to the scale of the proposals.

“Given the strength of public opinion against the development, Babergh’s high-handed attitude is difficult to understand,” he said.

Mr Watts added that David Wilson Homes had not shown the commitment to working with the community that had been promised in May.

“The commitment ended with a brief newsletter before Christmas. Since then, we’ve heard nothing,” he said.

Christine Thurlow, Babergh’s corporate manager for development management, said: “There has been a steady traffic of emails between the Babergh councillor, parish councillors and other people on this.

“Given the level of responses, we can’t reply to every individual letter.”

Mrs Thurlow said today’s meeting would be the second held, and explained that Create Consulting had been commissioned to provide an independent highways assessment in case planning permission was refused due to issues concerning access to the site.

“On that basis, a review of the scheme from an independent highway consultant was considered both necessary and appropriate,” said Mrs Thurlow.

“Both Suffolk highways department comments and Create Consulting’s views will be considered in our report to the planning committee, so everything is covered.”

Peter Biggs, planning manager at David Wilson Homes said, “We’ve gone above and beyond the statutory requirements. Along with the exhibition, public meeting, and newsletter, there has been a live project website.

“We’ve been working with Babergh and other authorities to amend the proposals as requested and look forward to the application coming before the committee next month.”

The proposals are due to be heard by the district council on June 12.