Controversial housing plans get go ahead

CONTROVERSIAL plans to redevelop the former HMS Ganges site have been given the green light despite fierce opposition from local residents and the disapproval of Suffolk County Council.

CONTROVERSIAL plans to redevelop the former HMS Ganges site have been given the green light despite fierce opposition from local residents and the disapproval of Suffolk County Council.

The decision to give the thumbs up to the new 325-home development at the former naval training school in Shotley was made yesterday at a meeting of Babergh District Council's Development Committee.

The verdict has sparked outrage from campaigners living in the villages along the B1456, such as Chelmondiston and Woolverstone, who claim that the homes would put too much pressure on the road, making it unsafe and damaging the historic character and tranquillity of the area.

Former television presenter Laurie Mayer, who is chairman of the Woolverstone Residents' Association, described the decision as "monstrous."

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"We will fight it every way we can," he said. "We will seek a judicial review and try and get it referred back to a full meeting of the district council while also bringing it up with our local MP.

"It is monstrous and amounts to the rape of the countryside. Babergh are using us to solve the housing problems that they have everywhere else."

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Elizabeth Aldous, co-ordinator of the Peninsular Parish Alliance and chairman of Freston parish council, added: "I'm outraged at the way that the district council has behaved. They are only interested in their own individual wards and not looking out for the good of the area as a whole.

"The houses will just be dumped on us and they are completely out of character with what is a nice rural area."

At the meeting yesterday, which took place at Shotley Village Hall, councillors heard a number of representations from concerned residents about the impact of the development on the area.

Graham Steel, chairman of Shotley Parish Council, said: "The proposal is contrary to regional and national policies and does not meet our current needs in terms of providing employment or for meeting the needs of young people."

There were also concerns that any development would have a detrimental affect on the environment, parts of which are Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Babergh District Council planning officer Richard Watson also recommended that the plans be rejected on the grounds that the current facilities and services in Shotley could not support 325 new homes.

However councillors voted nine to three to push ahead with the development because similar planning applications for housing in Hadleigh, Sudbury and Great Cornard had not had a notable diverse affect on the character of the areas.

Clive Arthey, district councillor for North Cosford, argued: "It may well bring more traffic, pressure on schools and other facilities and we have to accept that it will change the environment but as a committee those are the challenges that we always face in making decisions.

"The site has been redundant for years and in urgent need for something to be done with it.

"I feel that we should accept the proposal and believe that it will improve Shotley for future generations."

Jim Quinlan, district councillor for Hadleigh, said that the development would also go some way to easing the affordable housing crisis of the area.

The decision was also contrary to the advice of Suffolk County Council's Executive Committee, which rejected the proposals in April this year on the grounds that the development was too large.

David Wood, county councillor for the Shotley Peninsular, said: "I'm absolutely amazed that they haven't listened to the local people and the county council and taken on board their views.

"To make a comparison with Hadleigh, Sudbury and Great Cornard is a complete and utter misdemeanour because Shotley is totally different. It just goes to show that the councillors do not understand the local area at all.

"I give my full backing to all of the parishes and will support them in whatever action they wish to take. The fight will go on."

A spokesperson for Babergh District Council said: "Planning officers will now be working closely with the developers Haylink to ensure that the community is as sustainable as possible by including as many community and transport facilities as necessary."

A spokesperson for Haylink refused to comment last night .

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