Developer's bid to build 5,000 homes just outside Haverhill met with opposition in neighbouring villages
An assurance has been provided that ‘no decision has been made’ on any potential development sites after a scheme for up to 5,000 new homes on 750 acres of land south of Haverhill was put forward.
Dismay was evident on social media last weekend among villagers in Sturmer and residents of Haverhill after they became aware of a development submitted by Catesby Estates, on behalf of the landowners, to build the sprawl of housing, with new schools, local community facilities, leisure uses and public open spaces.
The 750 acre site stretches from Sturmer, where it would surround the garden centre and much of Sturmer Hall, along the side of the Haverhill bypass towards the A1307.
It has been put forward for inclusion in the West Suffolk Local Plan, although a large tract of the land Catesby Estates hopes to develop sits within Braintree District Council’s area.
Cllr Diana Garrod is the chairman of Sturmer Parish Council and is Braintree District councillor for the Bumpstead Ward, which includes Sturmer, Helions Bumpstead and Steeple Bumpstead.
She said: “Residents in the local villages have expressed disappointment to me about what they feel is a lack of communication regarding the West Suffolk Local Plan; Issues and Options Consultation in relation to the land south of Haverhill and the promotion by Catesby Estates on their website for 5,000 houses plus facilities.
“Whilst the new Local Plan does not indicate any allocations, it includes maps of the sites that have been submitted.
“This site appears to be in the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; Stour Valley Project Area which is described in their management plan as ‘one of England’s finest landscapes within its riverside meadows, picturesque villages and rolling farmland’.
“The Stour Valley Project Area has scenic quality and a combination of beautiful features.
“A Valued Landscape Assessment was commissioned in 2019.
“The agent made Braintree District Council aware of the site a couple of years ago but they did not consider it appropriate or necessary to consider it at that stage in the Local Plan process.
“Residents have indicated to me that they want a substantial green buffer zone to protect the surrounding villages from Haverhill’s growth and that losing good quality agricultural land will further damage biodiversity.
“The medical services in Haverhill are woefully inadequate for the population as it stands and there are no plans for substantial improvement or a medical centre.
“The transport links are insufficient; there is no rail link and the A1307 has a high mortality rate.
“Steeple Bumpstead is blighted with the use of their country roads as a rat runs to Stansted Airport.
“Whilst I am sure there are residents who are receptive to Haverhill’s growth, I have only heard from those who wish to object to these proposals to date.”
Councillor David Roach, cabinet member for the Local Plan for West Suffolk Council, who represents Haverhill at district, town and county council levels, said: “West Suffolk is starting a review of its Local Plan and the Issues and Options consultation marks the first formal consultation.
“The purpose of the consultation is to consult on a series of options and issues and this is at the initial stages and not site specific.
“Developers and landowners have put forward sites as part of the annual Strategic Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment process that all councils go through.
“The sites are all within the West Suffolk administrative boundary and the council has made no decision on any of these sites.
“In this case, Catesby Estates has submitted a site for consideration that is being consulted upon.
“The site submission is within the boundary of West Suffolk for 2,430 homes albeit we recognise the ambition from the developer is a larger scheme including 5,000 homes which would cross two local authority areas.
“The council is inviting comments as part of the Local Plan consultation which will go on until 2022 and we would urge everybody within and outside the West Suffolk boundary to make a representation.
“However, the council can only make decisions on planning within West Suffolk.
“The council has consulted Braintree District Council for their comment.”
Catesby Estates was contacted for comment.
n A 10 week engagement on the Issues and Option part of the West Suffolk Local Plan closes on December 22. An open all hours virtual online exhibition for the Local Plan has already had 3,000 visits and can be found HERE