‘This is what can be done’ - landowner on vision behind proposed almshouses for the young development
PUBLISHED: 06:00 01 May 2020 | UPDATED: 09:28 01 May 2020
A Suffolk farming family want their proposed housing development to be a “national exemplar” for almshouses for the young – but have come up against strong opposition from their village.
Landowner Edward Myatt, from Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, has applied for up to 58 homes at Apple Tree Cottage at The Drift, in the village where he has lived since the 1980s.
Mr Myatt, who previously gifted the land for the new village green and helped enable the new community centre, is described in supporting information with the planning application as an “enlightened landowner who has been interested in social housing for over 30 years”.
But this application for the five-acre site off Barrells Road is facing more than 100 objections with concerns including what will happen to existing allotments, pressure on the road infrastructure and the impact on the rural landscape, wildlife and neighbouring properties.
Thurston Parish Clerk Vicky Waples said the land fell outside the settlement boundary and did not conform to the adopted Thurston Neighbourhood Development Plan, adding the scheme would cause “demonstrable harm”.
Thurston is already set to see its population double with six major housing developments bringing more than 1,000 new homes.
Architect John Burton, of Purcell Architects, and almshouses specialist Michael Siggs approached the Myatt family in 2018 over whether they had any land suitable for the construction of a group of modern almshouses.
The 12 new almshouses would be made available to young people aged 20 to 35 at an affordable monthly licence fee to meet the charity’s maintenance costs.
Mr Myatt hopes the initiative could become a “national exemplar”.
He said: “We know it’s a very, very good idea, but nobody else has come up with it. We started lobbying the government in the middle of 2018. This is a way to solve part of the housing crisis.”
His son Paul said: “What’s driving all of this is Thurston needs houses for the young. Where are young people going to get a house? No-one else is going to gift £1million to the village.”
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Paul said the sale of the full market properties would fund the £1m needed to build the almshouses.
He added: “Really what we are looking to do in Thurston is show an example – this is what can be done.”
The Purcell-designed scheme would also include eight “genuinely affordable” houses, 17 allotment gardens and a Sustrans Cycle Track (route 51) crossing the site, connecting Barrells Road and Church Road.
To address concerns over the existing allotments, Paul said there would be “change” as they needed to make the site work, but offered reassurance to allotment holders.
“The allotment holders will have allotments,” he said. “Some might not have allotments the same size as in the past, but they will have allotments.
“They have the open air, exercise and camaraderie, and we will put them in good order, in proper shape, with good fencing and water.”
Paul said the field was house-locked and had been left to wild, rather than being farmed, but opponent to the plans and nearby resident Frazer Dibley said the loss of the land would “devastate an important rural landscape, wildlife (bats, deer, owls, to name but a few) and habitat”.
An ecological consultant has also submitted a holding objection to the application “due to insufficient ecological information on protected and priority species”.
Mr Dibley said locals were “up in arms” over the proposal.
During a virtual meeting on April 29, Thurston Parish Council agreed not to support the application.
Parish Clerk Mrs Waples said while the idea of the almshouses “may be laudable”, the location of this estate “will cause significant harm”.
Suffolk Highways has also recommended a holding refusal over issues including the narrow nature of Church Road and School Road, which would be the main routes for vehicles from the site.
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