‘We don’t need these houses’: Villagers’ opposition as sites earmarked for 756 new homes

Villagers in Wickhambrook have voiced their concerns over proposed development sites Picture: WICKH

Villagers in Wickhambrook have voiced their concerns over proposed development sites Picture: WICKHAMBROOK SAYS NO - Credit: WICKHAMBROOK SAYS NO

Villagers in Wickhambrook have voiced their opposition after several sites in the village were earmarked for possible housing developments totalling 756 new homes.

West Suffolk Council leader John Griffiths. Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI

West Suffolk Council leader John Griffiths. Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI - Credit: MARIAM GHAEMI

The sites have but have been put forward by land owners or developers as part of the annual Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment process carried out by West Suffolk Council.

The sites are not approved or backed by the council, but the assessment process and people’s views on the developments helps inform what may come forward later as part of the West Suffolk Local Plan.

The Local Plan sets out where housing should and should not go over the next 20 years.

Councillor David Roach, West Suffolk Council cabinet member for the Local Plan, said it was “at the very first stages and is not at the point of putting forward particular developments or backing any sites for housing”.

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However, among the sites include one piece of land east of Gaines Hall, which could accommodate 450 houses, while another north of Nunnery Green could fit 164 homes.

In total, there are fears the five sites have the potential to bring a further 756 homes to the west Suffolk village.

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A large proportion of villagers have already voiced their concern over the sites however, and fear large-scale developments would have a negative impact on local facilities.

Diana Carroll, who runs a small family business in the village, said she wants to see the sites remain as fields to feed future generations.

She said: “We don’t need these houses. Wickhambrook residents are more or less unanimously against large-scale development.

“The school is full. The health centre is overcrowded. Lanes around the village are already over-used and dangerous for children, pedestrians and elderly people.

“We want to preserve the wonderful pattern of hamlets, village greens and productive fields around Wickhambrook – and protect quality of life for villagers.”

Mr Roach added: “The local campaign may be talking about the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment.

“This is something that happens every year that all councils have to do.

“Each year, national guidance requires local authorities to prepare this assessment where developers, landowners, submit sites which they are seeking to develop.

“This call for sites process does not mean these proposed developments are backed or agreed by the council but show where others think development should go.

“It has no legal weight but it is one of the many pieces of evidence used in the Local Plan process to look at possible sites for development.

“The Local Plan will start looking at sites in detail next year and a further consultation is planned for Summer 2021 when residents and local organisations will be asked to have their say.

“In addition any site coming forward would also have to go through the normal planning process.”

Despite their grievances to larger developments, villagers have said they are not opposed to small-scale developments in future.

A spokesman for West Suffolk Council confirmed none of the sites have been approved by West Suffolk Council, but reminded residents that they can have their say on the council website.

Mr Roach added: “We are asking people to have their say at the moment on the foundations of what the local Plan will be based on and these views will shape development in West Suffolk over the next 20 years.

“We would urge everyone to look at the current exhibition https://westsuffolk.exhibition.app/.”

The new local plan will help shape future communities and support developments until 2040.

So far, more than 1,500 people have visited the “online village hall” set up by the council to view and comment on the plans, with the first of three consultation phases set to end on December 22.

Speaking about the online system, council leader John Griffiths said: “I would like to thank the hundreds of people who have already visited our online exhibition and encourage others to follow suit and have their say.

“A good Local Plan is central to the best possible future development of West Suffolk and our communities.”

The website can be accessed here.

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