Wednesday, 6 January 2016

An Open Letter To Framlingham Town Council

At the Town Council meeting tomorrow evening the Council will debate (item 14 on the Agenda) what level of contribution it is willing to make to Framlingham Residents' Association (FRA) Rule 6 Participation at the Appeals for Fairfield Road and Mount Pleasant.

Below is the case we have sent to the Town Council for its consideration.

Come along to hear the outcome. 


5th January 2016

Request to Framlingham Town Council for assistance with funding for Rule 6 participation in the Fairfield Road and Mount Pleasant Appeals.

Framlingham Residents Association is asking Framlingham Town Council to contribute to the cost of FRA’s Rule 6 participation in the forthcoming Planning Inquiry into the proposed Fairfield Road and Mount Pleasant developments.
We show that FRA is acting in the interests of the town as demonstrated by TC resolutions and the Neighbourhood Plan and ask that the TC share the cost equally with FRA. The cost of participation is £24,200 including VAT and we are asking for the TC to contribute £12,100.
The Planning Appeals are by Taylor Wimpey for 163 homes in Fairfield Road and Persimmon Homes for 100 dwellings on Mount Pleasant. The defendant is Suffolk Coastal District Council. At the request of the Planning Inspectorate the two appeals are being held concurrently as there is significant overlap between them.
The applications were refused on the following grounds: insufficient infrastructure in the town made them unsustainable; both were on greenfield sites outside the development boundary and the negative impact they would have on the sensitive setting and edges of the town.
In November SCDC announced that they were withdrawing un-sustainability as reasons for refusal on both applications. This left the SCDC defence as being the developments are on greenfield sites and the impact they would have on the sensitive setting and edges of the town.
SCDC will argue that they now have the 5 year housing land supply as required by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Both appellants will argue that SCDC does not have the 5 year housing land supply and therefore NPPF Paragraph 14 applies. This states that where a Planning Authority cannot demonstrate a 5 year housing land supply there must be a presumption in favour of sustainable development unless the negative impacts of the development are deemed to outweigh the advantages.
At two recent Appeals (Woods Lane Melton and Land at North Entrance Saxmundham) the Planning Inspector disagreed that SCDC does have a 5 years housing land supply.
It therefore becomes even more important to show that the developments are not sustainable and that the negative impacts do outweigh the benefits. As SCDC has already conceded the sustainability arguments FRA decided to become a Rule 6 party at the Appeals so we could put forward a case to show that in at least one area, transport, the developments are not sustainable and that overall the negative impacts of the developments do outweigh the benefits. We would have liked to have argued on other areas of sustainability but time and costs prevented this.
This is a Public Enquiry and the general public and other interested parties such as a Town Council will have an opportunity to speak but not to present a case or cross-examine evidence put forward by the developers. To do this you need to be a Rule 6 party and as this is very similar to a court proceeding it is advisable to be presented by a solicitor/barrister and have evidence presented by recognised experts.
Mount Pleasant
The SCDC Planning Portal shows this application received 249 objections, 2 neutral comments and no letters in favour of the scheme. The application was rejected by SCDC Planning Committee.
On 29th October 2015 the SCDC Planning Committee voted to accept the Officers recommendation to approve the revised Persimmon Homes application for 95 homes on Mount Pleasant. Contrary to popular expectation Persimmon did not then withdraw from the Appeal. Notwithstanding the additional strain on the Town’s infrastructure it is generally agreed that the 100 homes application is a less acceptable design than the 95 homes scheme as, contrary to best practice, all the affordable homes are set in a single area, parking is restricted and little effort is made to make the development blend in with the surroundings.
Fairfield Road
This site was the least preferred option in the recent housing site allocation consultation for the Neighbourhood Plan. In the SCDC consultation there were 136 registered objections to the scheme and 2 letters of support. The Mount Pleasant development of 95 homes means that the total number of new homes built in Framlingham in the next three years will exceed the total target for 2027 as set by SCDC. This development will result in the Town having significantly more new homes than required by SCDC and this will put even more strain on the Town’s already over-stretched infrastructure. The new build timetable proposed by the developers means that even if SCDC and SCC do make funds available for improvements in infrastructure, and they have not done so to date, it will be many years before the shortfall is addressed.
The FRA Case
The main thrust of the FRA case is the inappropriateness of the developers Travel Plans in the context of life in Framlingham. The Travel Plans submitted by both Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon propose a sustainable transport system based on the extensive use of public transport. As the preliminary report prepared for us by Railton (and distributed to Councillors in October 2015) shows this is not realistic for Framlingham and the proposals are not sustainable. The Proof of Evidence now submitted goes into this in more detail and highlights the inadequacies and potential danger in the pedestrian facilities relied upon by the developers to support their Travel Plans.
As the Travel Plans submitted by both appellants are very similar this topic will be considered jointly in order to control costs and time.
In addition to this we are supported by Suffolk Preservation Society who have provided a Proof of Evidence regarding the impact the Fairfield Road development on the long views across the town, its historic buildings and in particular the Church, Castle and College.
We will also use our local knowledge to support the SCDC defence argument on the impact on the developments on the townscape, the landscape and the sensitive settings that are the edge of the town.
As a Rule 6 participant we have access to all the statements of case, statements of common ground and supporting documents used by the defendants to present their case and we are able to cross-examine this evidence. Our legal team are experts in this field and have experience of the precedent cases used and how they can be used in the context of development in Framlingham.
If the Planning Inspector finds in favour of the Appellants then the developments will be built as unlike the Appellant, the Defendant has no right to appeal to a higher court.
We see local representation as an essential role in the Appeals where the outcomes will have a huge and irreversible impact on the town. You do not need to win every sustainability argument to be successful at the appeal. You need to convince the Inspector that the negative impacts of the development(s) outweigh the benefits.
The FRA Team
FRA has instructed the following to act as legal representatives and expert witnesses:
Legal Representation- Lisa Foster, Partner at Richard Buxton Associates. RBA are a small firm of dedicated specialist solicitors working on environmental and public law issues. Lisa will be supported by Hannah Norman, Paralegal at RBA
Travel and Transport Expert Witness - Bruce Bamber of Railton TPC Ltd
Impact of Fairfield Road development on setting of Heritage assets – Fiona Cairns, Director of Suffolk Preservation Society
Professional Fees  £22,000
Disbursements and other Expenses £ 2,200
Total £24,200
* Disbursements and Expenses are mainly printing and travel costs.  We have minimised these by the FRA committee providing bed, breakfast and evening meal accommodation for the legal team and witnesses.
To cover the costs of FRA representing the Town as Rule 6 party we propose
Framlingham Residents Association funding      £12,100
Framlingham Town Council funding                    £12,100
FRA launched a fundraising campaign on 7th December 2015. Framlingham townsfolk have been very supportive and to date we have raised £6,930.00. This enabled us to start the Rule 6 participation process and cover initial costs. 
The majority of the bills are due for payment in January and February 2016.
Copies of all invoices will be provided to the TC.
Payment can be made direct to the supplier or via FRA as required.
When we consider Station Road, Mount Pleasant and Fairfield Road, the town is facing the prospect of a huge increase in homes in a very short space of time. Additional smaller developments such as New Road and other sites identified in the Neighbourhood Plan means the town faces change on a un-precedented scale.  We need to ensure a sustainable future for Framlingham and should not be silent while the future of our town is being decided.  We need to be active participants in the Appeal process and the only way we can have an effective voice is to be a Rule 6 participant. We urge the Town Council to support our application.
Yours sincerely

Christopher Sharpe
Framlingham Residents' Association


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