What is the basis for these objections?
NANT believes that the creation of a very large high-density housing estate on the greenfield site to the south and east of the BT site, adjacent to an Area of Outstanding Beauty, is not the best solution to meeting the housing needs of Suffolk Coastal District as a whole. There is no proven need or demand for this number of houses on that site, nor any demonstrable case or logic in providing nearly 700 affordable homes in one location when it is clear that the need for these is greatest in the more rural parts of the district where high houses prices are forcing local young people out. If the BT development goes ahead, we believe that the resultant infrastructure changes (e.g. new schools, road changes etc) will pave the way for more developments all round the area (e.g. in Kesgrave and old Martlesham). BT has told the East of England Regional assembly that there is room for 3,500 houses on the site. Eventually the eastern side of Ipswich will become urban development from the Ipswich town boundary right though to the fringes of the River Deben, and subsume the current empty greenfield land in Kesgrave and Martlesham. Right now the whole of Suffolk Coastal’s housing policy is being distorted by the commercial objectives of one landowner, and the Council’s stated view that the easiest option for them is to get their entire infrastructure costs funded from a single source. We think that it is wrong for the next generation’s future to be bartered like this.
Haven’t the houses got to go somewhere – isn’t this NIMBYism?
SCDC has carried out several rounds of consultation and, of the various strategies put forward, the option of one very large development has consistently been the least popular amongst the residents of Suffolk Coastal as a whole. Support for this site has mostly come from the developers, SCDC, SCC, quangos and other organisations with a vested financial or organisational interest in seeing that greenfield development goes ahead.
Is the BT site really greenfield – there’s quarrying on part of it?
Yes it IS greenfield farmland. The consent for quarrying was granted on condition that it was returned to farmland at the end. Another option is that the site be turned back into heathland. The amount of heathland in Suffolk has declined dramatically in the last 100 years and is now in short supply as a habitat. Studies have shown that worked out quarry sites on this type of land make a particularly good heathland habitat.
Where should the houses go?
We believe that the homes should be more equitably distributed around the district so that they better meet the needs of local communities, help to reverse the decline in the viability of many rural villages and provide affordable housing closer to where people work, rather than in a single large site. This is what the public said they preferred in response to first round of consultation.
What housing are they proposing to build?
According to the Local Development Framework Core Strategy document, the 2000 homes would be broken down as follows – 900 would be 1 or 2 bedroom, 1100 would be 3 bedroom and above. Of the 2000, 670 (1/3rd) would be affordable, and of these 74% (i.e. 500) would be 1 or 2 bedroom (mostly flats). There is no published study to say if this housing mix meets the needs of the people who might be employed in the hi-tech business park, but it is very likely that it won’t.
Are all these houses needed around Martlesham?
No. The Labour Government’s housing targets (contained within the Regional Spatial Strategy – RSS) actually called for 1050 houses in the SCDC part of the Ipswich Policy Area (basically Kesgrave and Martlesham), and this is the number that we were originally consulted about. The figure was raised to 2000 in summer 2009 at the same time as the number allocated to Trimley was reduced from 1600 to 1000. The 2000 figure coincides with the BT planning application. No credible reasons have been given for increasing the housing number from 1050 to 2000. In any case the RSS targets have now been scrapped.
Even assuming the RSS targets were still valid, how many new houses would be needed in the Martlesham/Kesgrave area by 2025 if they were to keep the same share of the District’s total housing stock as at present.?
About 1000 homes would mean that this area’s share would stay about the same. SCDC are proposing 2640 homes, of which 2000 would be next to BT.
So why is the Council putting all this development here?
Because the developer is making it financially attractive and easier for them to do so. It has nothing to do with how many houses are really needed and where they are needed.
What has the new government said?
They have scrapped the regional house building targets (contained in the RSS). They have scrapped the housing density constraints. They have said “It will no longer be possible to concrete over large swathes of the country without any regard to what local people want”. They have told Councils that they must take these changes into account in deciding what to do next. They have said that local people should be properly consulted.
How many new houses are really needed in Suffolk Coastal?
We don’t know, nor do we think SCDC really knows. We do know that the East of England Plan to 2031 suggests that only 13% of the planned new housing growth is for local population growth. We know that the forecast which SCDC used is based on out of date information about available brownfield sites and planning consents given for houses which have not yet been built. We also know that the Head of Planning said that he was certain the rural areas would require at least double the 490 houses which had been allocated, but he said that the Labour government’s policy prevented them being taken into account, so he had to allocate them somewhere else. All this points to the fact that the only logical course of action is for SCDC to carry out a complete bottom up re-forecast and then carry out a proper consultation on the result.
I live in Kesgrave/old Martlesham and I would prefer that the houses go at BT so they are not near me.
The vast scale of the infrastructure changes (schools, roads, water treatment plant expansion, etc) being planned for the BT site are not justified solely by the 2000 houses currently being proposed. Once the infrastructure is in place it will mean that further housing can go ahead all round the area on the basis that the infrastructure is there. For example a new secondary school would free up capacity at Kesgrave High, so that housing on the field to the south of Grange Farm becomes viable. We know that developers are very keen to develop that land and the field opposite the Black Tiles.
The SCDC and BT plans say that by putting housing near jobs this will be more sustainable.
This would only be true if the jobs materialise and people who work there choose to live in the adjacent development. Currently only 3% of employees at the BT site live within 1 mile. People choose where to live on very subjective terms; 10% working locally would be an ambitious target and would mean 90% would still have to travel elsewhere. People working in hi-tech jobs are able to work from home at least some of the time, and BT has a policy of promoting this, so there is no strong incentive for them to live next to their work. It seems unlikely that the housing mix proposed will be attractive to people seeking to work in the sort of hi-tech businesses which BT is talking about. In other places similar schemes have not been successful. In any case companies reorganise, downsize, etc over time, so people’s places of work change. Look what has happened at BT over the last 10 years or so.
Will the jobs materialise?
We hope that jobs are created and we have no objection whatsoever to the proposals for improving the current business park. Sadly though, we think the forecast of major job growth is plain unrealistic. The site is just too far from other similar industries and international airports. Many of the companies currently listed on the site are only there because they supply to BT, and they only employ the minimum number on the site needed for that contract. If the permanent jobs do not appear, and/or people who work there do not choose to buy the adjacent houses, then this housing site will be the furthest from all the other employment areas identified in various studies (e.g. Ipswich Town Centre and Ransomes Europark). By the Council’s own criteria it would then be the least sustainable of all the options considered in earlier rounds of consultation. We have found a document in which SCDC say they doubt that EERA’s jobs forecast for 2021 for the District as whole will be met by 2031.
Has BT promised to stay on the site if it gets planning permission?
No. All it has said is that it will use some of the proceeds from selling the land to renew and refresh some of its buildings. We say that if BT wishes to modernise its buildings it should pay for it out of operating profits.
What will BT do if it doesn’t get planning permission?
We don’t know. BT hasn’t actually said it would pull out if that occurred, although its original covering letter said that the cost to the local economy if they were not there would be huge. However, if you project 4-5 years into the future and imagine that BT has reorganised again or has been bought out or merged, then the notion that the existence of some refurbished offices on the site would materially affect the company’s strategic decision about where to carry out R&D is fanciful thinking. The new plans show that the earth station will be removed, as will the exchange reference test facility. Almost all of what is left is basically just office accommodation.
Who will develop the houses?
BT appears to be planning to sell off the land to developers.
What will the effect on Martlesham Heath be?
We can’t say exactly. The major A12 junction changes and widening WILL affect the look of the environment and there will be much more traffic on the A12 (an extra 2400 vehicles per day, according to BT’s own figures). The plans for a medical centre may well mean that the Martlesham Heath surgery will no longer be there, which in turn would mean the loss of the chemists. There is a large, growing pensioner population that would be badly affected by this. Local shops on the new site may also affect the viability of the existing Martlesham Heath shops. It is quite remarkable that none of the many documents published by SCDC or BT consider the adverse impact on Martlesham Heath (socially or physically) or how to mitigate them in any way. The only comments we have seen have concerned whether or not the new community would be standalone or integrated with Martlesham Heath – but they seem very confused about this. This is hardly surprising since none of the councillors or officers making these decisions lives in the area and do not understand what makes the place tick. The planners have said that they don’t want too many larger shops on the new site, as this would affect the viability of Woodbridge’s shops. This suggests where their priorities lie.
What will the effect on Waldringfield and Newbourne be?
Such a development will threaten the integrity of the Deben Estuary which currently has a number of national and international designations intended to protect sensitive environmental sites – RAMSAR, SSSI, SPA. The creeping urbanisation will damage the rural character of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The proposed development will detract substantially from the quality of life of the people of Waldringfield through the hugely increased traffic flows and visitor numbers to the village. Greater numbers of people, dogs, boats, traffic will overwhelm the narrow roads, tiny beach and disrupt the tranquility of the area which is so important for wildlife.