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MSDC to decide on Post Mill Lane house application

24 November 2020

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A planning committee of Mid Suffolk District Council will decide on the latest application to build houses on Post Mill Lane on Wednesday 25 November.


You can watch the meeting. It will be streamed live on the district council's YouTube page.

Here is the link to it https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSWf_0D13zmegAf5Qv_aZSg


The parish council has decided to oppose the application. Here are the parish council's views.


Fressingfield Parish Council opposes this application.


Councillors were surprised and concerned that the report from the principal planning officer recommending that the planning committee accept this application was circulated in advance of the consultation period having been completed. We are perplexed that after statements made by him at previous public meetings stating that the development was inappropriate, he has made a complete volte-face and is now supporting the application. The officer’s report contains factual errors.
These concern Fressingfield parish councillors as the errors could distort the planning committee’s views of the impact of this application on the parish.
e.g. The population and number of homes are those for the district council ward of Fressingfield. This ward includes the parishes of Weybread, Syleham, Metfield and Mendham, as well as Fressingfield. The last census recorded the population of Fressingfield as 1021 with the number of homes as 444. A recent population estimate on the Suffolk Observatory website is 1122; the weekly bus service for the village ended over a year ago. Therefore, the impact will be greater than set out in the report.


The council is shocked that the principal planning officer should apportion such little weight to the Fressingfield Neighbourhood Development Plan. Two years in writing, the district council made this plan in March 2020. Its aim for the development of 60 homes is closely in line with the number stated in MSDC’s existing and draft Local Plans. This figure was not randomly plucked from the air but is an integral part of a plan, constructed with democratic involvement at each stage. This is a process with which you will be familiar as you are drawing up the new strategic plan for MSDC.
These plans are not just bureaucratic exercises undertaken to tick boxes and gain additional CIL moneys. They are a fusion of public preference and need to be written in a clear way as a statement of direction for future development. In the first test of its value, the district council should not allow the figures agreed in the parish to be overridden. The additional 18 homes in this application, with the 51 already having planning permission, would mean that Fressingfield’s planned 60 was increased by 15% within 8 months of the neighbourhood development plan being made.


Regarding the wider impact of this development, councillors are concerned about highway safety, particularly in New Street. This is the road into which the development flows.
In its report, Suffolk Highways Authority (SHA) claims that in its previous report, the site ‘… was reviewed with 2 other sites within Fressingfield to consider the cumulative impacts from all three developments on the highway.’ This was not the case.  In this earlier report, the transport policy and development manager confirmed that, following the example of recent cases from the Planning Inspectorate, he had viewed the Post Mill Lane  ‘… site as unique and that the absence of a history of crashes should be balanced against observed road safety issues when deciding if there is an unacceptable impact on highway safety.’
That November 2018 report was made after simple observations of traffic and pedestrians negotiating their ways along New Street and around Jubilee Corner. The report was clear. The development of more houses on Post Mill Lane would result in ‘… an unacceptable impact on highway safety particularly for vulnerable pedestrians.’
In the latest report, Suffolk Highways Authority recommends approval of the application. The parish council believes that SHA presents not enough evidence or reasons to overturn the first recommendation. The stated reasons for changing its view are not sufficient for you to change yours:-
The only new proposal for road safety, noted in the recent SHA report is a drop pavement at the junction of New Street and Priory Road.
The accident figures quoted in this report to support its change of view, do not refer ‘to incidents of conflict between pedestrians and motorist’. This should be a key factor in judging how safe pedestrians are on a road without pathways.
The footpath to the school referred by SHA as a reason for approving the application is not new. It was there when the first report was written.
Seeking a 20mph speed limit on New Street is just an idea. It has been advised against in the past by SHA because the median speed of traffic on New Street is likely to be above 24mph. (This is the guide that SHA works to when considering applying a 20mph speed limit.)
Therefore, the parish council believes MSDC Planning Committee should question if there are any valid reasons for Suffolk Highways Authority to change its advice from that given in November 2018.


Regarding the impact of the development on the sewerage system within Fressingfield, it is 10 months since the parish council’s last comments on the application, and nothing has changed. Any periods of prolonged rain continue to bring raw sewage into the streets. The reasons are clearer, but the solutions seem no closer.
Anglian Water states that technically the pumping station on Harleston Hill and the treatment plant in Weybread can deal with the extra sewage from the proposed new estate. Its report makes no comment on the fact that the system leading to the pumping station cannot deal with the current level of waste at times of steady rain. This is because an unknown amount of surface water ends up in the sewerage system and that system cannot cope. The egress of raw sewage into the street occurs before the Harleston Hill pumping station.
The parish council is firmly of the view that no new homes should be added to the system until this problem has been solved.


The council feels that it is unclear how proposed section 106 money for school transport, and speed reduction measures could be used. There is lack of clarity which means that their impact as mitigating measures is extremely limited.


The council is of the opinion that the planning authority should resist any over-reaction to recent government consultations on planning. With such an uncertain future, they should not try to second guess what the government will decide. MSDC already has a substantial landbank and does not need to urbanise a rural community. The parish council is concerned that local democracy is being undermined by promoting the expansion of homes where patently they are not required.


Overall, the small changes introduced by the developers do not convince the parish council that this is an application worth supporting. No substantial factors have changed to make this application a positive and welcome addition to the village.
Strength of feeling against this application is very strong in the parish. The number of responses opposing this application confirms this.


Fressingfield Parish Council requests that the district council refuse the application.