Planning Committee Updates
East Suffolk Council to reconsider the planning application for Victoria Mill Road
PROPOSED VICTORIA MILL ROAD DEVELOMENT
Refused Planning Permission
24th May 2022
We are very pleased to announce that East Suffolk Council (ESC) Planning Committee has today refused planning permission for the proposed development off Victoria Mill Road for up to 49 self-build homes.
There has been very strong opposition to this proposal in Framlingham, which was contrary to the Neighbourhood Plan and to East Suffolk's Local Plan. Despite this it was initially approved by ESC in January. Subsequently, Framlingham Town Council's barrister submitted a letter setting out many legal objections. In addition, residents and Framlingham Town Council successfully applied to have land proposed for road widening in Victoria Mill Road declared an "Asset of Community Value".
ESC then withdrew their approval, and it was reconsidered at their Planning Committee today. The proposal was defeated by a narrow margin of 5 to 4 because it is contrary to the Framlingham Neighbourhood Plan, and contrary to the East Suffolk Local Plan policy of respecting Assets of Community Value.
The site is marked for eventual development for approximately 30 houses, but not until the second half of the decade. Also, the developers may appeal the decision.
We are very grateful for the strong support and help provided by our MP Dr Dan Poulter and by our District Councillor Maurice Cook, both of whom lobbied ESC in support of our case.
17th May 2022
Framlingham Town Council is very disappointed that East Suffolk Council (ESC) Planning Officers continue to support the proposed development in Victoria Mill Road, Framlingham. It has been established (and the Planning Officers now accept) that this is contrary to both the ESC Local Plan and the Framlingham Neighbourhood Plan.
The Framlingham Neighbourhood Plan was produced by local people, approved by a government inspector and voted upon in a referendum, and has statutory basis. Measures announced in the Queens Speech include strengthening powers of local communities to shape how development takes place to grow the housing stock.
However Planning Officers claim (incorrectly according to our legal advice) that they have discretion to override local plans if in their opinion proposed development "does no harm". If this were true, it would make local plans pointless, and clearly undermines the Government's intention to give local communities real power to shape where development takes place.
The access road to the proposed development is inadequate, and the Planning Officers propose that the road should be realigned by using amenity land in private ownership, and which is designated as an "Asset of Community Value". This is contrary to law and to ESC policy, but again the Planning Officers believe they are not bound by this.
The decision on the application is in the hands of elected ESC Councillors on the Planning Committee, and we urge them to recognise the wider issues in upholding the clear government intention to empower local communities. Both ESC and Framlingham Town Council are committed to deliver the Government's housing targets – in Framlingham's case we shall exceed them – and it is wrong that unelected officials should have discretion to override democratic local plans.
3 April 2022
We are pleased to learn that East Suffolk Council (ESC) has agreed that their Planning Committee will reconsider the application for 49 homes off Victoria Mill Road. The Committee had previously voted to grant planning permission, despite the opposition of Framlingham Town Council and several hundred residents, and despite the fact that the application was contrary to the Neighbourhood Plan.
We engaged a solicitor to write to ESC (on the advice of a barrister) making clear that the advice of ESC Planning Officers and the decision of the Committee were unlawful, which provided clear grounds for a Judicial Review. ESC were asked to return the application to the Committee to reconsider the decision. Fortunately they have now agreed to do this.
We have also met with our MP, Dr Dan Poulter, and we are very grateful that he has agreed to help us. He has agreed to write to the Leader of ESC, and to each member of the planning committee to highlight our case and support the neighbourhood plan.
There are wider issues at stake here. Planning Officers in ESC (and in some other District Councils) maintain that they have discretion to override Neighbourhood Plans (for towns and villages) and Local Plans (for Districts). This is the advice they gave ESC Planning Committee. If this advice were correct it would make Neighbourhood Plans pointless.
It takes a great deal of effort by the community to create Neighbourhood plans: consulting on where and how to deliver sustainable development to meet government housing targets, drafting policies for development, getting the work reviewed by a government inspector, and finally asking the community to vote on the result. Why do all that if Planning Officers are not required to follow the policies?
However, we are advised that the law is clear: there is strong legal precedent that Planning Officers do not have this discretion. The Courts have said that interpretation of planning policy is a matter of law for the courts (not a matter of planning judgement for the decision maker). This has been reaffirmed by recent legal decisions overturning Mid Suffolk planning decisions in Thurston and Fressingfield for this reason. In these cases, and with Victoria Mill Road, it appears that Planning Officers may have wrongly advised Planning Committees on the law.
It is frustrating that while Planning Officers consider Neighbourhood and Local Plan policies as purely advisory, other parts of ESC regard them as binding, and say this to local Councils when they prepare Neighbourhood Plans!