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Bury St Edmunds flat plan 'threatens town's WWII and medieval heritage'




Concern has been raised for the future of a WWII pillbox at a site earmarked for flats.

John Goldsmith, from Bury St Edmunds, contacted Suffolk News after learning 64 flats have been planned for Thingoe Hill.

London-based developers City & Suburban Homes want to build the flats on an disused industrial site along side the A14, as well as 60 parking spaces and 136 cycle bays.

The Thingoe Hill pillbox - type FW3/22AA - with gun ports (known as loop holes) in the sides, and a tunnel-like entrance.
The Thingoe Hill pillbox - type FW3/22AA - with gun ports (known as loop holes) in the sides, and a tunnel-like entrance.

The application however has also caused concern from Bury St Edmunds Society, who are worried about ‘uncharacteristic’ appearance and also Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service who says the site is also of potential medieval archaeological interest.

Six responses from nearby residents were, in the majority, in favour, but some called for more parking.

Bury Town Council are worried about parking and the lack of affordable housing, and have objected.

John Goldsmith at the area where flats are planned to be built. Picture by Mark Westley
John Goldsmith at the area where flats are planned to be built. Picture by Mark Westley

Mr Goldsmith, said: “I do hope the developers have realised that the site includes a piece of our history – a pillbox from World War Two.

“This particular site has already lost one when the A45 (A14) was built and Suffolk has lost two pillboxes in the last couple of months, with another demolished in Felixstowe.

People tend to assume all pillboxes are listed buildings but in reality very few are.

Our WW2 heritage is being lost - Bury St Edmunds history is being lost.
The existing location plan for the flats. Image: pH+ Architects/City & Suburban Homes
The existing location plan for the flats. Image: pH+ Architects/City & Suburban Homes

Pillboxes are concrete structures which were used to provide strategic defence against invasion.

There are currently 13 in Bury.

Thingoe Hill pillbox (type FW3/22AA) is also equipped with an anti-aircraft gun facility and appears on the EDOB (Extended Defence of Britain database), after being registered by the Pillbox Study Group.

There are also concrete shapes for blocking the road stored beside Thingoe Hill, off Shaker's Lane, off Barn Lane, and one at Beech Rise.

Other pillboxes locations include near to the Lark footpath off Mildenhall Road; in the field off Friary Meadows; behind Tollgate pub, the rear of Rugby club; in field off Rushbrook Lane; in the field off Sicklesmere Road.

Suffolk County Council Archaeology Service has also called for an examination into the site in line with the National Planning Policy Framework.

Matthew Baker, archaeological officer for the service, said: "Archaeological investigations north of the site have found evidence of medieval occupation and investigations on the former Thingoe Maltings, found medieval and post-medieval activity.

“This site lies in an area of archaeological potential recorded on the County Historic Environment Record (HER).

"The site lies on the high ground, north of the medieval town of Bury St Edmunds and in close proximity to the medieval St Thomas Chapel and St Saviours Hospital founded in c.1184 and dissolved c.1540.

During the 1960s a large number of human burials were found on the site to St Thomas Chapel and an isolated burial has been found c.60m north-east of the development site.

"Furthermore, the site is located to the south of the Thing Houe (Thingoe Hill) Tumulus, the site of an AngloSaxon meeting place.

The hexagonal hole through which the anti-aircraft gun would have been positioned, mounted on a concrete post.
The hexagonal hole through which the anti-aircraft gun would have been positioned, mounted on a concrete post.

"There is high potential for the discovery of below-ground heritage assets of archaeological importance and groundworks associated with the development have the potential to damage or destroy any archaeological remains which exist."

Bury Society said: "The Society queries to what extent the overall design reflects a local context and the character of our historically important town, as recommended in National Planning Policy Framework.

As a general rule, the Society welcomes a contemporary approach to the design of new buildings, however we are not persuaded that the proposals adequately respond to the town's distinctive character - which mainly comprises a variety of finishes including soft red and buff Gault brick highlighted by render, below a highly articulated and varied roofline.

"Finally, in view of the site's high elevation and prominent aspect from the north, we ask that the applicant provides a visualisation from the A14 eastbound carriageway from where most passing travellers will gain their best impression of our much cherished town."

A spokesperson for City & Suburban Homes, said: “City & Suburban Homes has worked closely with the council, planning officers and an extensive range of consultants to ensure the viability and suitability of development on the Thingoe Hill site.

"This is a sustainable site that has been identified for residential use according to the council’s brownfield register, and officers have supported the principle of redevelopment of this site for residential use.

The planning application therefore proposes comprehensive redevelopment of the site including demolition of the existing unused buildings and structures which are currently not accessible to the public, including a structure which has been suggested to be a pillbox, albeit there is no record of this according to the County Councils Historic Environment Record (HER).

"The removal of the existing buildings and structures will allow for the delivery of high quality housing to meet local housing need.

"All of the relevant details relating to the application are available online for public viewing and comment, and we encourage local people to submit their comments via the West Suffolk Council website to be taken into consideration.”

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