March 14 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
A planning row involving one of the most important heritage sites in north Essex is set to be resolved later this month.
A special meeting of Tendring District Council’s planning committee has been arranged to assess an ambitious scheme to fund the repair of the 900-year-old St. Oysth’s Priory.
The Sargeant family, who own the property, want to build a total of 322 homes on land near or belonging to the Priory in order to enable the restoration of the ancient building, a former monastery dating back to 1127. In addition, they are proposing to build new accommodation, a foyer area and a visitor centre in the Priory complex itself.
The plans are the latest in a series of proposals dating back over a decade, which have generated strong opposition from people living in the area. But supporters of the scheme say a “multi-faceted approach” of this kind is the only way to restore the Priory to its former glory.
Opponents of the scheme have organised themselves into a group called Save Our St, Osyth (SOS). According to one member, Phyllis Hendy, around 2,800 people have joined the group, which wants to see the Priory taken out of private hands and looked after by a charitable trust with a view to opening it to the public.
She said: “There is absolute opposition to the plans in the village. The village’s infrastructure won’t be able to support the proposed number of new homes and there is concern that the Priory has been left to deteriorate.”
SOS’s fears have been backed by English Heritage, which has submitted an assessment of the plans ahead of the meeting due to take place at the Prince’s Theatre in Clacton on Tuesday January 21. The document says the plans are “deeply flawed” and that the funds generated by the housing developments will not be enough to pay for the renovation of the Priory.
Those acting on behalf of the Sargeant family disagree.
A spokesman said:‘We think that the English Heritage advice is incorrect and unrealistic and we hope that the members will be able to recognise that our proposals are an essential element in the multi-faceted approach that this required for St Osyth Priory.
“Everyone agrees that this highly complex and challenging set of nationally-important heritage assets require a variety of complementary solutions, to restore them to their former glory, to open them up the general public and to bring them back into beneficial use.’