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Bures St Mary residents dismayed after developer submits new application for controversial homes in response to planning inquiry defeat

Proposed changes to controversial homes in Bures St Mary – ruled to have breached planning conditions – have been met with dismay from residents, as the long-running battle over the site continues.

The Stemar Group has submitted a fresh application to alter the heights of two properties at a six-home development on Cuckoo Hill, attempting to address the reasons for its planning appeal being defeated last year.

The Planning Inspectorate upheld Babergh District Council’s demolition notices on plots five and six, finding that the homes failed to follow planning conditions from 2015, resulting in “serious harm to the local environment and residents’ living conditions”.

Residents protesting the housing development in Bures St Mary in March 2018 - pictured are Carol Walters and Clare Frewin. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography
Residents protesting the housing development in Bures St Mary in March 2018 - pictured are Carol Walters and Clare Frewin. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography

In her decision – hailed locally as having significant ramifications for wider planning issues – inspector Diane Lewis gave Stemar nine months to comply with the orders.

In response, the developer is now seeking to reduce the roof heights and modify the windows on both buildings, claiming it would “remove potential for overlooking and loss of amenity to adjoining properties”.

But opponents believe the plans fail to address the issues raised in last year’s inquiry, and have called on the district council to follow through with its enforcement notices.

Chief among the concerns of villagers is that the raised ground levels the homes are built on means they will still dominate neighbouring properties and the surrounding conservation area.

Cuckoo Hill resident Clare Frewin told the Free Press: “We are very concerned that the applications do not address the key issues, validated at the recent appeal, regarding the underbuild and raised ground height.

“The planning inspector made it very clear the increase in ground height was unacceptable.

“Altering the roof line and moving a few windows does not reduce the dominating impact of the buildings, which are just meters from our home.”

This was echoed by John Evans, of Normandie Way, who described the developer’s latest plan as “a cynical attempt to get away with the least they can”.

Karen Clarke, whose daughter and her two children live next to the site, said she feared the plans would be seen as a good compromise by planners, adding that even if privacy issues can be addressed, the buildings will still be “overbearing and oppressive”.

Babergh District Council stated that all representations from the Bures St Mary community would be considered, before a decision on the latest application is made.

A council spokeswoman said: “This application reflects feedback from the Planning Inspectorate, who identified a number of differences between the planning permission originally granted by our council and the completed homes, and issued an enforcement notice accordingly.

“To comply with the notice’s deadline for action, and reach an amicable solution for the community as soon as possible, the developer has submitted a new application, which suggests how the buildings can be adjusted to rectify errors made during the original build.

“Our planning officers have fought long and hard to get the best possible outcome for local residents and we will ensure that the views of the community and the parish council are fully taken into account as plans progress.

“The application will be subject to consultations with technical experts, and the public are also invited to have their say on the proposals.

“All representations received will be reviewed by our planning committee to allow for a considered decision in the interests of openness and transparency.”

In addition to considering the new application for plots five and six, the council confirmed it is still working with Stemar on outstanding issues relating to the planning conditions for plots one to four.

A planning statement issued on behalf of the developer said: “The application seeks to address the reasons for dismissal of the recent planning appeal.

“It also goes beyond that requirement, affording opportunity to provide an improved design both in terms of external appearance and impact on neighbouring properties.”

After complaints about the height of the homes were first made and then upheld in 2017, Babergh’s planning committee rejected a revised plan for all six houses in 2018.

However, it then approved three retrospective applications for four of the properties in 2019.

The latest plans have drawn further ire towards the drawn-out planning saga over the development at the former slaughterhouse site, which has faced heavy opposition from within the village.

Resident Carol Walters told the Free Press: “After having spent the past five years rightly challenging many practices and decisions regarding this dismal site, it has became blatantly obvious to all affected that the current planning system is not fit for purpose.

“We have Babergh District Council to thank for having shared this unjust and failed process with us.”

Kenn Butcher, chairman of the Keep Bures Beautiful campaign group, said he believes any remediation for the unresolved planning issues around plots one to four should have taken place by now, arguing it must happen as soon as possible.

He added: “My position overall with the scheme is that plots five and six are overbearing, that the site would be best if reduced to former levels, the site remediation completed and bungalows built rather than houses.”

The application can be viewed here using the reference number DC/21/00745.

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