District councils criticised for local plan consultations

Mid Suffolk District Council in Needham Market.

Mid Suffolk District Council in Needham Market. - Credit: Archant

Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils are in the early stages of seeking opinions about a document that will form the final part of a blueprint for the area over the next two decades.

The two district councils have started formal work on the last section of their new planning policy framework which will eventually replace the 2006 Babergh and 1998 Mid Suffolk local plans.

But given the importance of the document, which will identify sites for large-scale housing, employment and infrastructure projects over the next 20 years, the consultation process has been criticised for not being thorough enough.

The process will run until March 12 and four drop-in events have already taken place at locations including Sudbury, where it was set up in a small corner of the Kingfisher Leisure Centre reception area.

Babergh has been criticised for its choice of venue and for not publicising the event effectively.

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Lorna Hoey, chair of the Sudbury Society, said: “This process, open only from 4pm to 8pm, was dealing with major issues for Sudbury such as the locations for a further 500 houses on top of the extensive Chilton Woods and Harp Close Meadow projects, plus the huge implications of a bypass.

“A few people stopped to find out what was going on, but as there were only two advisers, many were forced to wait and then gave up in exasperation. Our members could find no display material on any stands. We came away none the wiser.”

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Jan Osborne, chair of Sudbury Town Council’s planning committee, agreed with the criticism. She said: “All they had was a little table with two council officers and that was not appropriate given the importance of the document.”

Tom Barker, Babergh’s head of economy, planning and sustainable growth, said the public drop-in sessions were to supplement the formal consultation and provide opportunities for people to ask questions. He added: “We consciously chose to undertake this in a busy public space, at a time that spanned daytime and evening so we could engage with as many people as possible and encourage them to give us their views. Ultimately, this is the beginning of the conversation about how people want the area to develop and that conversation won’t stop when this part of the consultation finishes on March 12.”

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