‘Under siege’ village set to fight homes contrary to neighbourhood plan

Debenham villagers are being asked for their views on development of farmland in Gracechurch Street.

Debenham villagers are being asked for their views on development of farmland in Gracechurch Street. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

Villagers worried about the impact of nearly 300 new homes proposed for farmland packed a community hall for a public meeting to voice their concerns.

Taylor Wimpey UK wants to build on a 45-acre area of fields north of Gracechurch Street – between The Butts and Stony Lane – opposite the high school and sports and leisure centre in Debenham.

Residents though are angry at the scale of the planned development – which will increase the size of the village by about one-third – and which is far more than proposed in their just published draft local plan on which they have spent the past five years working.

Many are also deeply concerned at flood risk, traffic congestion and road safety, noise and air pollution, and a major squeeze on local services which they say are already under pressure.

Traffic worries could also affect other nearby villages as vehicles will have to use narrow lanes to reach main routes.

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Villager Chantal Haddon said: “Debenham is a very happy, forward looking community and has absorbed growth in recent years but like many rural towns and villages in the East now feel under siege.

“This particular development doesn’t answer a local need as Debenham isn’t a big local employer, currently 82% of adults commute out of the village for work and a number of houses on the Meadows housing estate remain unsold.”

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Mrs Haddon said the parish council had worked hard over the past few years to create the Neighbourhood Plan, which proposes sensitive growth.

Residents are being urged to make their views known to Mid Suffolk District Council with the deadline for comments being February 1.

Debenham’s Neighbourhood Plan specifically ruled out the Gracechurch Street site for homes, saying it would “significantly change the size and character of the village”.

Taylor Wimpey UK Ltd said a series of Place Shaping meetings had been held with district planners to discuss the principal of development at the site, and potential impacts, including landscaping, flooding, highways, community and education matters. The vision for the site was to create a sensitively designed and high quality place which complements the character of Debenham and helps meet housing needs.

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