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MP laments loophole enabling developer to 'ride roughshod' over Bures





Bures, Suffolk. Residents protesting about a housing development on Cuckoo Hill where they live which are subject to a further planning application. Pictured from left Dominic, James, Isabella, Eleanor and Clare Frewin in their garden which is overlooked by one of the new build houses. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography (2270451)
Bures, Suffolk. Residents protesting about a housing development on Cuckoo Hill where they live which are subject to a further planning application. Pictured from left Dominic, James, Isabella, Eleanor and Clare Frewin in their garden which is overlooked by one of the new build houses. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography (2270451)

A controversial housing development in Bures, which exceeded the limits of its planning permission, has been highlighted by a local MP as an example of a serious planning loophole that needs to be addressed.

Residents have spent several months protesting at a six-home development on Cuckoo Hill, on the site of a former slaughterhouse, after it emerged that the houses are being built higher than the specifications set out when permission was granted in 2015.

An independent survey commissioned by Clare and James Frewin, whose back garden is overlooked by this development, found a height difference of almost three metres – roughly the equivalent of an additional floor.

They, along with other villagers, believe the homes now dominate neighbouring properties, and that not enough enforcement action is being taken.

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge, who was formerly a Bures councillor, raised the issue during a recent debate about national housing policy in Parliament, stating it is a case of a developer “riding roughshod” and ignoring the concerns of the community they are building in.

He told the House of Commons that, while a district council could theoretically impose a stop notice on a development for breach of conditions, the loophole means developers can sue for damages resulting from the stop notice, making councils reluctant to do so.

“The real problem is that the developer in question simply does not give a damn about my constituents,” said Mr Cartlidge.

“In fact, he has been extremely aggressive with them. He has trespassed on the Frewins’ property. He has told Clare Frewin ‘If you had as much money as me, you would not live around here’, and he described the village as ‘scum’.

“They have this development behind them that they did not want. They have to accept it has been approved. It is being built far higher than the builder was given permission for, and he just carries on building it. He ignores all their concerns. He does not engage with the local community, but rides roughshod over them.

“I would like to see some kind of review of retrospective planning permission, so that where the developer is clearly causing detriment against the public interest, a stop notice can be issued.

“It could be appealed against, but whether it was upheld or even rejected, the builder would not have the right then to sue the council for damages, because it had acted in the public interest.

“This case has caused great dismay in Bures.

“The impression given is the system is weighted in favour of the developer, who cares not a jot for my constituents. I want a system that better represents my constituents, so they are not subject to people riding roughshod over them with permission they have been legally given.”

Residents affected by the Cuckoo Hill development say they are pleased by Mr Cartlidge’s statement in Parliament, but that it reaffirmed their belief that the planning system is weighted against them.

Clare Frewin told the Free Press they accepted there was pressure on local councils to build houses, and the site in question needed to be redeveloped, but they felt the Babergh planning authority was not taking control of the situation and, as a result, they were watching “a tower block” go up just metres from listed buildings.

“James Cartlidge’s speech confirmed our worst fears that the legislation is heavily weighted towards the developer,” she said.

“He talked of councils not being able to issue a stop notice, as a developer could sue for any damages if they subsequently gained planning permission.

“This is the clearest explanation I have heard of there being two systems in play; one for the individual who will accept an action enforcement as required, versus a developer with the resources and the will to ignore and sue the council.

“Our situation is exacerbated by a developer who shows active disregard for the historical value of the area and our community.

“With developers in control of the system, Bures has, in effect, a cuckoo exploiting our village, who will move on to do the same to another community.

"To stop this, we need to widen the debate, so legislation can be put in place to avoid this situation happening to other communities.”