Mill Mount Field public inquiry begins

Mill Mount Field from St Mary's church, looking towards Poplar Hill Picture: MARK LANGFORD

Mill Mount Field from St Mary's church, looking towards Poplar Hill Picture: MARK LANGFORD - Credit: Archant

A public inquiry has begun into controversial plans to build up to 160 homes on the edge of Stowmarket.

Grade 1 listed St Mary's church at Combs Picture: MARK LANGFORD

Grade 1 listed St Mary's church at Combs Picture: MARK LANGFORD - Credit: Archant

Developers Gladman is appealing against an earlier decision by Mid Suffolk District Council (MSDC) to refuse permission to build on Mill Mount Field, off Poplar Hill in Combs.

Gladman say the scheme would provide much-needed new homes for the district, but opponents say it would destroy views across a beautiful valley containing Grade 1 listed St Mary's church and Combs Wood.

They also argue that the local road network, schools and health services would not be able to cope with the demands placed on it by the scheme.

The inquiry, conducted by planning inspector Paul Clark, began today at Stowmarket scouts headquarters in Milton Road North, Stowmarket.

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Martin Carter, for Gladman, said the scheme was needed as MSDC did not have a five year supply of deliverable housing land, and that the policies used by the council to reject the application were out of date.

Arguments by MSDC and residents protest group Save Mill Mount Field, who would also be giving evidence to the hearing, that the scheme would be harmful were overstated, he argued.

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"The limited heritage harm would be outweighed by the scheme's benefits," he said.

"The Appellant will be submitting that the appeal scheme is much needed sustainable development and that it ought to be allowed to proceed in the public interest."

Anjoli Foster, for MSDC, argued that even if it was found policies used by the council were out of date, it did not necessarily mean the scheme should be approved, while the council could also prove it had a five year supply of housing.

"It is accepted, as with any proposal for housing, that there are benefits associated with the appeal scheme," she added.

"However, the heritage harm, together with the landscape harm, would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits."

Landscape consultant Michelle Bolger, for the council, told the hearing that Mill Mount Field was largely unchanged since the 18th century and that St Mary's church and Combs Wood were significant features.

"The local landscape assessment and guidance make it clear that the landscape type within Mid Suffolk District is a landscape type of cultural and historic importance," she said.

"This landscape type is particularly sensitive to development because of this importance.

"There is a clear recommendation that urban landscapes should not be located in this landscape type."

She said the valley setting of the church and woods "has a significant impact".

"I consider that those factors - the valley form that allows you this appreciation of Combs church and wood, are of much greater significance to the character of the site than either the urban edge of Stowmarket or the plans," she added.

The hearing continues.

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