Letter from Babergh District Council to Brantham Parish Council May 2013

Brantham Parish Council have received the following letter from Babergh District Council about the proposed development at the Wardle Storey Industrial site:

Dear Trevor,

 I refer to your email of 1st May to Rich Cooke. I have been asked to reply.

 You will see from below that I work for Rich and am the Project Officer for the Brantham Regeneration project. Do feel free to contact me on any matters arising.

 Perhaps I can begin by giving you some background, some of which I am sure you will be aware of.

The development of the historic Employment site down at Wardle Storeys is the subject of a specific planning policy within the current Babergh Local Plan 2006 – policy EM06. Although now a little dated, the policy still reads well as a statement of what the Council would like to see happen on this very important site.

The site has been acquired by a company called the St Francis Group (“SFG”) who specialise in dealing with redundant industrial sites across the country. Over recent months and years they have worked on removing redundant structures and assessing the development potential of the site. The Council has assisted through funding of certain background studies (with monies from the Haven Gateway Project). We now have a body of technical evidence which is publicly available on the BDC website (part of the Core Strategy Document Library), which puts some figures to some of the costs involved in regeneration. Given that we are dealing with such a large site, and with issues of decontamination, flood protection and so on, some pretty significant figures are thrown up. Set against this we know that the market for employment development (or indeed any development at this precise time) is not good.

When the Council came to propose its draft Core Strategy (a broad strategic planning policy document for the District) we sought to continue the Local Plan policy approach.

 However, SFG by then had proposed that in addition to some appropriate residential development within the regeneration site permitted by the Local Plan Policy, they should also be allowed to develop housing on some of the land between the employment site and the village. This would enable the costs of the employment land to be subsidised by the housing land.

 The Council can accept that this site poses very particular development constraints and so it is not necessarily against some development of the Greenfield land. The amount of course is all to argue for.

 Technical experts from the Council and SFG are engaged in an exercise to verify development costs, so that we may have an accepted basis for judging claims for housing development. This is proving time-consuming  and complicated, but we are making progress. We are hoping that this will reach a conclusion in the near future, so that we may talk to the community with these conclusions in mind. We would like to be able to give you verifiable facts rather than assertions.

You will know that the draft Core Strategy was the subject of an Examination in Public recently and this site was discussed. The Council proposed an amendment to the wording of its proposed policy so as to facilitate some housing on this land, the precise number is not specified and will depend upon community views and the regeneration benefits put forward in due course by SFG. The Inspector has now given the all clear for this (and other major amendments to the Plan) to be the subject of a further Consultation exercise, expected to begin end May/beginning June, and lasting for 6 weeks.  This exercise will be your formal opportunity to become involved in this issue.

 Dealing with your specific points:

 ·         The 590 figure is SFG’s ambition, but the technical exercise I mentioned is testing whether or not it is justified. The Council is not committed to this figure, and has not agreed it.

·         The key stages of the project as envisaged at the moment, are (a) the publication of the major amendment to the Core Strategy, as explained above (b) the close of the related public consultation period, (c) the issuing of the Inspector’s report on the Plan, including the Brantham amendment (d) the submission of a planning application for the development of the site as a  whole, including any related housing development

·         Good practise expects that the developer will consult with the community and I know that that is their intent.

·         The Council is committed to consulting with the Parish council in particular and looks forward to discussions. As you say, we can all work together to build a better Brantham.

 Perhaps you would like to give the above some thought. You will see that I am only at work on Thursdays and Fridays but I will be in touch with you again once the precise arrangements for consultation on the Modifications to the Plan are known.  Rich and/or I would be happy to come along to one of your meetings to explain things first hand at the appropriate time. I wanted today to at least assure you of our genuine intent to liaise with and involve the community in this issue.

 Regards

 Mike Smith

Senior Planning Policy Officer (P/T -,Th & Fri)

Babergh District Council