Government will not call in decision to approve 144 homes in Constable Country in East Bergholt
PUBLISHED: 13:00 08 April 2016
The government will not call in the controversial plan to build 144 homes on farmland in East Bergholt, it has been confirmed.
Planning minister Brandon Lewis wrote in a letter to Babergh District Council (BDC), which approved the application last month, that the plan will not be reconsidered by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
Campaigners had hoped the Secretary of State would intervene and overrule the decision made by BDC’s planning committee. They claim the development off Moore’s Lane, in the Suffolk countryside immortalised by John Constable, would damage both the character of the picturesque village and the landscape painter’s legacy.
But the letter from Mr Lewis states: “The government remains committed to giving more power to council and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues.
“The Secretary of State has decided, having had regard to this policy, not to call in this application. He is satisfied that the application should be determined at local level.”
This newspaper reported earlier this week how residents are forming a rebellion against the approved housing plan. They said a series of small, sustainable developments dotted around the village, rather than one large “housing estate”, would have been supported.
The development would bring a mix of 50 affordable homes and 94 town houses and apartments to the outskirts of the village where Constable was born and raised.
The village lies within the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The development falls outside the AONB.
Paul Ireland, chairman of East Bergholt Parish Council, said: “(The decision) demonstrates that the government is not fulfilling its obligation to run with localism and listen to a community.
“The parish of East Bergholt feels let down. There was a huge amount of effort that went into our neighbourhood plan which has been recognised by many people as being exemplary, and to have it ignored in this way by the government when they pledged that they would support localism is appalling.
“I would recommend any community working on a neighbourhood plan to stop right away to write to their local MP and prime minister and ask them to provide some concrete evidence that they are actually supporting it.”
A vote on whether to launch a judicial review could take place during an East Bergholt Parish Council public meeting on Thursday.
South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said that the fact there was no firm planning policy for East Bergholt that had been breached meant that there were no reasons for the government to call in the decision.
Peter Dent, chairman of Action East Bergholt, said: “I think the decision is a great shame and a great pity, but it is not exactly a surprise.
“But the fight is not over and the next step now is to seriously consider, and hopefully we will, a judicial review – under the auspices of the parish council and not the action group. We haven’t got that sort of money. It is going to cost a lot of money and I believe the parish council will have a vote next Thursday.
“I think they have fought it so hard for so long, in conjunction with ourselves, that I don’t think they want to stop now.
“If someone in this particular site had said, instead of 150 homes, we will start off this one with 30, it would have gone through. We are not objecting to new developments. We are objecting to 150 homes on the outskirts of the village.
“We have farmers here who have said they will sell land to give the amount of homes required as long as it complies with the neighbourhood plan, which means small developments – 15 or 20 homes dotted around the village.
“We could have got five, six, seven of those developments easily around the village, which would have blended in very nicely. The design could have fitted in.”
A DCLG spokesman said: “Ministers have decided not to call in a planning application for a residential development in East Bergholt, Suffolk following third party requests for them to do so.
“The issues raised by the application were considered in the light of Government call in policy and it was decided that intervention at Government level would not be appropriate.
“The decision on the application therefore remains with Babergh District Council.”