Planning department ‘not fit for purpose’

PLANNING HEADACHE: Roy Whitworth, chairman of Lavenham Parish Council at the Armorex new homes site.
PLANNING HEADACHE: Roy Whitworth, chairman of Lavenham Parish Council at the Armorex new homes site.

A parish council chairman has slammed district planners for not listening to the views of his fellow members over plans for 45 new homes.

Lavenham Parish Council chairman Roy Whitworth has criticised Babergh District Council’s planning department for the way it has handled an application to build develop the former Armorex factory site in Preston Road.

He says the village was not consulted as stated in a “village design statement” drawn up 10 years ago. Villagers, he says, are also unhappy with the fact that the development contains no provision for affordable housing, something Lavenham needs.

He said: “At the moment, we are heading for a lose-lose situation. If the application is refused, then we will have to put up with what looks like a bomb site of derelict concrete at the entrance to our beautiful village.

“If the application is allowed, then we will be forced to accept a development which does nothing for local needs, contravenes many of Babergh’s own planning guidelines and puts further strain on our already over-stretched infrastructure.

“The whole village is anguished at what it happening. Property in Lavenham attracts a premium, but that means that locals are priced out of the market when it comes to finding a home. There should be no commercial reason why some provision should not be made for local needs.”

Mr Whitworth said he was being forced to make a public stand on the planning application because the parish council, and the villagers who attended a packed public meeting in August, were not being listened to.

Letters of objection had not been counted because the words “I object” or “objection” were not included in the first line.

He said the provision of 12 new affordable homes as part of the plan would go some way to appeasing frustrated villagers.

“I speak on behalf of the whole village when I say we will be very upset if this gets approved as it stands,” he said.

Plans have been submitted by Essex-based developer Knight Developments for 12 flats in two-three-storey blocks with a mixture of two, three and four-bedroom houses with parking, and including a recreational open space.

The former Armorex factory produced specialist products from the cement industry and closed seven years ago. It was flattened last year in preparation for the site to be developed.

Housing on the 1.48-hectare site had originally been ruled out because of its potential employment use, but no buyer could be found to take it on as a factory.

Mr Whitworth said he understood the application would be determined when the district council meets at the end of October.

He added: “Babergh’s planning department has made no effort to engage with us on this project despite the fact that our village design statement requires it to involve us at all stages of the planning process. Our letters complaining about this have not brought a reply. We feel the village has been badly let down.”

A district council spokeswoman said all letters of objection would be included in the final submission.

She said: “It would simply not be the case they would not be included because words were not included. Everything will be included and all views and feedback including the parish council’s will be taken into account.”