Council defers decision on Skylark fields development
Details of a Long Melford development will require further consideration following Babergh’s planning committee calling for more energy efficiency measures, a better housing mix and further investigation into pedestrian safety.
Outline planning permission for 150 homes on land to the east of Station Road – referred to locally as Skylark Fields – was originally refused by the council’s planning committee in 2018, but the decision was subsequently appealed and overturned by the Secretary of State for Housing, who granted permission last April.
Since then, applicant Bloor Homes has met with the Parish Council and consulted the community on proposals – enabling them to share their views before the final details of plans came before Babergh District Council’s planning committee today.
After input from the planning officer, applicant, the community and councillors – and much deliberation – the committee voted unanimously in favour of deferring the application.
Whilst members recognised that the scheme offers many benefits such as 52 affordable homes, significant open space and a range of ecology mitigation measures – including four dedicated plots for skylarks – they remained apprehensive about some aspects of the development.
One major concern was pedestrian safety, with councillors requesting that the highways authority, Suffolk County Council, investigate the possibility of a condition being imposed on the developer requiring them to install an additional zebra crossing on the main road nearest the site. This would help to support the development’s additional footpath and cycle links and travel plan – promoting greener modes of transport.
The committee also felt that the homes could be more sustainable and include energy efficiency initiatives such as solar panels and water recycling – meeting the council’s ongoing ambition for Babergh’s environment to be protected, valued and enjoyed for many years to come.
Another point of contention was the housing mix currently proposed, with councillors suggesting that there should be fewer four-bedroom homes to reflect identified need in the district. The design of the homes also came under scrutiny, as committee members believed that more could be done to reduce the visual impact of the development on the historic village, which consists of many listed properties.
Bloor Homes will now work with the council and other stakeholders to review the matters raised today before plans come back before committee – enabling members to make an informed decision that provides confidence to the community that their concerns have been taken into account and investigated accordingly.
Cllr Stephen Plumb, chairman of Babergh District Council’s planning committee said:
“Our council was, of course, disappointed with the Secretary of State’s decision last year that the provision of new homes to meet local need should be given significant weight, when our planning committee had previously concluded that there would be visual harm to Long Melford from developing this site.
“Since then, the applicant has worked with the community to try and resolve some of the concerns previously raised, although committee members believed that more could be done to address a number of outstanding issues and make this a development that Long Melford can be proud of.
“Today’s decision to defer proposals demonstrates our council’s continued commitment to ensuring that any planning application is in the best interest of our communities, whilst also allowing our residents to live in affordable and high-quality homes that enable them to build settled, safe and healthy lives.”