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Design guide for new homes targeted for Lavenham's updated neighbourhood plan after survey flags concerns about recent developments

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A design guide to influence future housing schemes is in the works for a village’s updated neighbourhood plan, after a survey flagged dissatisfaction with the quantity and quality of recent developments.

Public meetings were held at Lavenham Village Hall on Sunday afternoon and Tuesday evening, to share the results of a village-wide questionnaire to shape a revision of the local Neighbourhood Plan.

The plan, which was ratified in 2016, is being reviewed in response to changes within in the village over the last five years, as well as new Government policies, and the impact of climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.

Lavenham is one of the best-preserved Tudor villages in England.
Lavenham is one of the best-preserved Tudor villages in England.

At the public events, it was revealed that “the overwhelming sentiment from this survey is that there has been more than enough development in and around the village, and that it is mostly poor quality.”

Concerns were raised about the “under-provision” of affordable housing, with some suggesting this had been exacerbated by second home ownership.

In addition, many responses stressed the importance protecting Lavenham’s heritage and character, although opinions were mixed about how new development should be balanced between modern design and the village’s traditional aesthetic.

The Neighbourhood Plan Working Party stated there is still “broad support” for the plan, but some felt it had not always been successful.

The group has now commissioned a design guide with clearer parameters for what form new homes in the village should take, to be added to the updated version of the plan.

It is hoped that the revised plan will go out to referendum and be approved by 2023.

Deborah Sullivan, a member of the working group, said they would have liked more responses to the survey, but they were pleased villagers remained supportive of the neighbourhood plan.

“I think there are some people who don’t want any more houses, but we have to be realistic,” she told the Free Press. “If there are, it has to be the right type, and on brownfield sites.

“The objective of the plan was, if there were developments, they were small and we wanted the allocation of affordable housing

“That has helped guide development and planning, but the one thing that wasn’t included in the plan was the design.

“If you look at the community land trust development called Peek Close, there was a lot of support for that, whereas the new Hopkins Homes development, a lot of people feel it could have been built anywhere.

“People want homes to fit with the village. They want to see a design guide, so that’s something we’re commissioning.

“There are certain defined views in Lavenham, so part of the Neighbourhood Plan is also ensuring development does not affect the landscape of the village.

“The other thing is the Government is changing their regulations, and Suffolk County Council and Babergh District Council have both delcared a climate emergency, so all that has to fit in with our plan.”

The survey, which was held over the summer and received responses from 246 residents and 19 businesses, also highlighted serious concerns about traffic and parking provisions in Lavenham.

The working party identified a “tension between recognising the benefits that tourism brings and the issues that occur with traffic and increased footfall” within the responses.

Meanwhile, the idea of a new school building garnered significant support, while criticisms were levelled at the recent service provided by Lavenham Surgery.

For a full breakdown of the survey results, click here.