Outline plans for 86 new homes at Elmswell received the green light today which will pave the way for highways improvements and a new pre-school for the village.
Applicant Christchurch Land and Estates Ltd submitted plans for the development of land to the north and west of School Road, with original proposals seeking to build 105 homes. These were then revised to address changes in planning policy.
A decision on the amended scheme, scheduled for November 2020, was deferred on the recommendation that highways matters and proposed mitigation be reviewed.
Since then, planning officers have worked closely with the applicant, and other stakeholders to seek further clarity on queries raised. The latest plans came back to today’s planning committee meeting, held virtually to ensure public safety during the current coronavirus outbreak.
Following input from planning officers, objectors, the applicant, councillors – and subsequent debate – the committee voted by six to one in favour of authorising the chief planning officer to approve outline planning permission for the scheme, subject to conditions.
Extensive highways improvements have been sought by the council, with the applicant funding the widening of the Church Road and School Road junction to accommodate the safe movement of HGVs and alleviate any associated traffic congestion. Concerns previously raised about the detrimental impact of these works to an oak tree along School Road have been allayed, after plans were revised to ensure that the tree could be retained. A Tree Preservation Order will also be granted to safeguard against potential future harm.
A number of measures have been agreed to promote sustainable transport options in the village, including the allocation of land to help enable the creation of a new off-route shared cycleway. Once completed, this will benefit all local residents and enhance safe pedestrian and cycle links between Elmswell and Woolpit.
The development includes 30 affordable homes – offering shared ownership opportunities and lower rents than the local market rate. These homes will range in size from one-bedroom apartments to three-bedroom houses – accommodating families, local residents wishing to downsize and those looking to get on the housing ladder. All will be within walking distance to local amenities, reducing the need for car journeys.
Proposals also include public open space for community enjoyment, as well as the gift of land for a new pre-school – catering for increased demand from the village’s younger population. An obligation set out by the council, will see the developer partially fund the construction of this much-needed pre-school, enabling the provision to open promptly.
To further support the council’s blueprint for addressing climate change, the applicant will ensure homes are energy efficient and commit to measures to encourage biodiversity.
Ecological mitigation measures include a preliminary Ecological Appraisal and surveying the presence of breeding birds, bats, reptiles and badgers on site. The applicant has also agreed to the provision of nest and bat boxes, and connectivity for hedgehogs.
Additional obligations, including s106 conditions requiring a contribution towards a new primary school in Woolpit on completion of the new homes, will be agreed if, and when, the final details of the scheme are approved.
Cllr Matthew Hicks, Chair of Mid Suffolk District Council’s Development Control Committee A said: “I am pleased that since deferral in November, positive discussions have taken place between officers, the highways authority, and the applicant to address concerns previously raised by the local community and our committee. As a result, revisions to the proposed infrastructure will now allow for the oak tree on School Road to be retained.
“The development will fund a range of highways improvements, benefitting all local residents. Guaranteeing the safety of road users and pedestrians was considered at length by our committee, who successfully requested an additional obligation to provide further assurance on this, before final details of the scheme can progress.
“Plans will also help to secure a new cycleway, promoting sustainable transport options and ensuring pedestrian safety in Elmswell – supporting our council’s continued commitment to addressing climate change.
“In addition to this, proposals offer affordable housing within walking distance of local amenities, as well as contributions for a new pre-school and primary school to keep pace with growth.”