Constable Country in East Bergholt under threat by proposal for 144 homes
- Credit: Contributed
The Suffolk countryside immortalised by John Constable is under threat by a proposed development which could bring almost 150 homes to the village where the landscape painter was born and raised.
Developers have proposed building the new housing estate, which would include a mix of 50 affordable homes, 94 town houses and several apartments, on agricultural land on the outskirts of East Bergholt.
The homes would be built around a mile from Flatford, where Constable painted The Hay Wain in 1821 as well as The Leaping Horse and The Lock.
Peter Dent, chair of the campaign group Action East Bergholt, which formed in the wake of the proposals, said they are determined to protect the artist’s legacy which he feared could be “swallowed up” by “inappropriate developments”.
He said: “East Bergholt is the birthplace of John Constable and even in his day the area was known as Constable’s Country.
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“Many of his most famous paintings are of scenes here and most people would cite them if asked to exemplify an English rural landscape.
“Hardly anyone could fail to recognise The Hay Wain, from table mats and tea towels, greetings cards to posters.
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“The V&A’s recent Constable exhibition had paintings and sketches of East Bergholt scenes still recognisable today but are very much at risk from being swallowed up by inappropriate developments.”
He added: “What the villagers cherish is the fact that East Bergholt is a village, not a town. It is a diverse and vibrant community – a community aware of the importance of Constable’s legacy and with a strong determination to see it passed on to future generations of residents and visitors alike.”
Mr Dent said East Bergholt Parish Council have been working on a Neighbourhood Plan for more than a year, adding: “This will, once adopted, carry real weight in all planning decisions. All residents of the parish have been asked what it is they value here and how they would like to see the village develop over the next 20 years.
“The data from a 26 page questionnaire is being processed now. It is already apparent that the vast majority favour sensitive, moderate growth with no one development exceeding 15 homes and no large developments.
“It is clear no decisions on developments, particularly if large in scale, should precede the adoption of the Neighbourhood Plan.”
Around 2,250 people live in East Bergholt and it is estimated that the development would increase the number of homes in East Bergholt by around 15%. The village lies within the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley, an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Bidwells and Knight Developments have published “emerging proposals” for a mix of apartments, town houses and bigger homes but have yet to submit a planning application to Babergh District Council.
The housing estate would be built on a site off the B1070 – adjacent to Moores Lane in East Bergholt.
All 144 homes will be a mixture of one to five bedroom properties including apartments, detached houses and terraced properties.
A pre-submission consultation was held at the village hall in East Bergholt in November last year to gather public opinion.
A spokesman for Knight Developments said no-one was available to comment.
Bidwells did not respond to requests for comment.
But on the Bidwells ‘pre-application consultation’ website, it states the proposed site is “on the northern side of East Bergholt, in a sustainable location, within walking and cycling distance of a wide range of local services and facilities in the village”.
It states a number of assessments have been undertaken, including a landscape and visual impact assessment and an archaeological appraisal.
Documents on the website state: “There is a clear identifiable need for new affordable and market homes, both in the Babergh District and also the local vicinity.
“There were 22 houses on the Affordable Housing Register in 2009 and 57 households were identified in Local Housing Needs Survey dated July 2010.”
An “avenue” of trees will act as a “visual screen” on Moores Lane and the B1070 and a proposed planting of a woodland would also create a “buffer zone” between the development and the A12.
It adds: “Since housing creates the fabric of villages and forms the boundaries of public space, homes must be designed in a wider social context. To create and enhance East Bergholt as a sustainable community, the housing development may provide a mix of uses which also includes workplaces, business/commercial facilities, together with attractive and safe public spaces.”
Houses would be positioned to “maximise solar gain, reducing the demands on heating requirements”.