Saxmundham, Kelsale and Benhall agree to plan future together

A Suffolk market town is to press full steam ahead with a blueprint for its future after its two neighbouring villages agreed to join the project.

Benhall and Kelsale-cum-Carlton discussed the invitation to team up with Saxmundham to put together a Neighbourhood Plan for the three communities.

The aim will be to map out a document which will show the vision for the development of the area – not just new homes and business, but future education provision, leisure opportunities, identify any roads or transport changes, medical facilities, and other infrastructure projects.

It will also identify areas which need to be protected to retain and enhance the character of the communities.

Saxmundham Town Council chairman Roger Plant said: “Kelsale and Benhall are both on board and that is great – it is what we wanted.

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“Some people were worried that the villages would lose their identity, but that is not the case. Everyone will be represented on the working groups as we move forward and the communities all bring different qualities. We are very close together, too, so we have a connection and an effect on each other.

“Kelsale has an industrial area, we have all three primary catchment schools between us, Benhall has lots of open space, Saxmundham has the town centre. It makes absolute sense to do this together.”

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Other councillors also expressed the need to ensure the villagers are treated as “equal partners”.

Nearly 500 new homes are being built in Saxmundham – 315 in the first two phases of Church Hill and 160 between the A12 and Rendham Road – and the town council believes the building will not stop there.

Future development is expected in all three places and creating a Neighbourhood Plan is a chance to plan it properly and for residents to have an input.

Having a plan will also increase the amount of amount of money the communities will get from future development under the new Community Infrastructure Levy.

The aim is to set up a community group, led by the town council, to run the project.

Mr Plant said the next stage would be to set up a meeting of a small steering group, with input from a planning expert at Suffolk Coastal council, to agree a chairman for the project, and to decide what working sub groups will be needed, timescales, and how the plan will be progressed.

He said: “The first task will be to elect a strong chairman and decide the boundaries for the plan – those items we want to include.

“This could be a two to three year process so we will need some expert guidance and people who are prepared to be committed and work hard to get through this process.”

Rendlesham was the first community in Suffolk Coastal to complete its Neighbourhood Plan, and Leiston has submitted its final version and is expecting to hold its public referendum on the blueprint in the spring or early summer.

Others are in progress in many towns and villages, including Framlingham, Woodbridge and Wickham Market.

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