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Uncertainty around future development in Long Melford fuels concerns

Long Melford Neighbourhood Plan engagement Day ''''PICTURE: Mecha Morton
Long Melford Neighbourhood Plan engagement Day ''''PICTURE: Mecha Morton

Uncertainty surrounding the future development of Long Melford has sparked alarm after a major consultation was launched.

Land behind Harefield Road and High Street has been designated for industrial use by Babergh District Council and Mid Suffolk District Council, leaving residents in a state of limbo as they face the prospect of a major development on the horizon.

Answering questions at Thursday’s planning committee meeting, parish council chairman John Watts reassured residents that the council would do its utmost to shelve any development.

“We will fight it as far as we can in terms of what criteria we can fight it on,” he said.

Controversial plans for 71 homes in Bull Lane have already raised fears over a risk of flooding and an inadequate road network.

Last year, 44 new homes were given the go ahead on the former Fleetwood caravan site despite previous road safety fears.

Addressing residents at last week’s meeting, expert planner Ian McDonald admitted the consultation stage had already posed problems.

“This is very, very serious,” he said. “It’s a juggernaut that is starting to roll towards the allocation of more sites in Long Melford among other places.”

Mr McDonald explained that the consultation – launched to form a new joint local plan for the area – was not a question of simply ticking boxes and answering questions, but a chance to shape the village’s future.

“What do we want for Long Melford and how do we get it into this plan?” he asked.

“It’s sprinkling percentages of houses around the district in a very difficult manner,” he added.

Comparisons were made to the Fleetwood development in which a brownfield site was turned into residential homes.

And there are now concerns that Harefield Road and High Street could be heading in the same direction.

“To overdevelop Long Melford is a crime in its own,” expressed one angry resident.

Another resident asked what power the village’s own neighbourhood plan, which is still being formulated, would have in the decision, which, at this stage, is unknown.

“At the moment, there’s no developer, there are no plans, there’s just land which could potentially be built on,” said Graham Eade, chairman of the neighbourhood plan committee.

He reassured residents that the parish council would be proactive in the forthcoming decisions surrounding the consultation.

“We have to be there to tell Babergh no, enough is enough,” he said.

Mr Eade updated residents on the neighbourhood plan, with residents’ opinions sought at open days, the village’s street fair and through an online survey.

“We have a really good idea of what people want from the village and how they see it in the future,” he said.

Mr Eade added that the next stage would involve forming small working groups to concentrate on issues including housing and traffic, which are expected to be addressed next year.

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