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Woodbridge: Bentwaters row generates storm of responses from neighbours

PUBLISHED: 07:30 12 August 2014

Archant

Community leaders are hoping to make a final decision on the blueprint for the future of the former Bentwaters air base – including how much flying should be allowed – by the end of the year.

The issue has provided Suffolk Coastal with one of its biggest ever postbags on a planning application, with more than 1,400 responses from residents in the area, plus petitions understood to contain several thousand signatures.

The issue has split communities in east Suffolk and while most people are happy to see the Grace Spitfire fly in and out of the base, there are very strong views on whether or not other flying should be permitted.

The main concern is the impact on the tranquillity of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and also some concerns on generation of extra traffic using roads in the area to reach base businesses.

Bentwaters Parks and Stansall Properties Ltd are seeking permission for 960 air movements a year – fewer than two flights a day – for the Spitfire, heritage aerobatic aircraft, some business flights, and an annual air show.

The applicants say the aim is to regularise flying and not to greatly increase the number of flights.

The blueprint submitted to the council will also settle planning permission for the use of nearly 200 buildings at the 936-acre site.

A spokesman for Suffolk Coastal District Council said: “All the comments and responses received during the consultation period are being reviewed and will be used to inform the report which will be produced by the Suffolk Coastal Planning Team.

“The report will be submitted to the development management committee, where it will be considered by the members as part of the democratic process, at the earliest possible opportunity.

“Hopefully the matter will be considered by the committee within the next few months.”

Planning consultant Steven Bainbridge, of Evolution Town Planning, for Bentwaters Parks, said he had analysed all the responses.

He said: “Over half of the 1,400-plus responses on the district council’s website are supportive.

“There were also two petitions arranged by local people and supporters. A local petition carried out in Eyke, Rendlesham and Tunstall generated 1,144 responses. An on-line petition generated 5,124 responses.

“We also note that some hundreds of people are concerned about the proposal representing a ‘thin end of the wedge’ – perhaps that is what they have been told?”

Eight parish councils had objected; 13 had not.

Mr Bainbridge said appropriate planning controls could enable permission to be granted and satsify both supporters and objectors.

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