Babergh: Villagers have been branded ‘nimbys’ and urged to ‘embrace growth’

Simon Barrett

Simon Barrett - Credit: Archant

Villagers will need to change their “nimby” attitudes and “embrace development” if their communities are to survive and thrive, a leading councillor has warned.

Babergh’s recently ratified high level planning document for the next 20 years centres on growing employment and solving a housing shortage in the district.

The target is to build 6,000 new homes to meet predicted growth and create 9,700 jobs by 2031.

The core strategy document, which has just been signed off by a Government inspector, makes it clear that Babergh’s core towns of Sudbury and Hadleigh cannot take all of the new homes, and that villages will have to play their part.

Before the document was updated, building could only occur well within a defined village boundary.

But according to Simon Barrett, the council’s lead member for economic development and planning, the new strategy will increase the area around villages that can be built upon.

He said: “We have a serious shortage of housing in Babergh and need to address that. But in the past, we have almost restricted growth in villages.

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“Some have rallied against housing developments and have adopted a ‘nimby’ attitude of accepting that we need new homes as long as they are ‘not on our doorsteps’.

“But to keep things such as schools, pubs or shops viable, villages will have to adopt a sensible approach to development in order to survive. Our challenge is to get these communities on board with the idea of growth.”

The main development will still occur in core villages such as Nayland, Leavenheath and Bures but according to Mr Barrett, the “hinterland villages” that are fed by those core villages are where more growth is needed.

In a bid to encourage people to “buy into the core strategy” district councillors will hold workshops in the villages, and their will be a greater emphasis on consultation with parish councils.

Mr Barrett continued: “A lot of people think ‘localism’ is a chance to just say no to development and it’s not. It’s about getting everyone on board, coming up with sensible plans and making the right decisions based on the evidence.”

Babergh councillor Brynn Hurren, who has been pushing for affordable housing in Boxford, wants the idea to be expanded to tiny hamlets such as Lindsey and Groton, where he believes new homes would be welcomed.

He said: “Some of the smaller villages like Groton, which are neither core nor hinterland villages, have been left out of the loop because they’re not seen as sustainable as they don’t have a shop or bus, so you can’t build there.

“Many of these places are half their original size in terms of population and I don’t see why we should freeze development if the people want it.

“Edwardstone is a perfect example. Around 10 years ago, six affordable homes were built there and that has been a great success. The people who live in them use the amenities in nearby Boxford so it works really well.”

In light of the core strategy, individual policies are being reviewed by a ‘task and finish’ group.

Against officer recommendations, the council turned down three controversial proposals for solar and wind farms in rural parts of the district during the past year. Mr Barrett said it was important for members to have clear guidance on such matters to avoid ‘emotional’ decisions.