Councillors’ backing for Station Hill plan

Phase One of the Station Hill development - overview looking towards railway station ENGANL00120130307103641
Phase One of the Station Hill development - overview looking towards railway station ENGANL00120130307103641
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Planning permission for the first phase of a major redevelopment of the station area of Bury St Edmunds was approved today, subject to a deal with developers.

St Edmundsbury’s Development Control Committee was considering whether to accept planning officers’ advice to refuse permission for the development in Station Hill.

Planning officers described part of the plan for 133 homes and two shops as ‘ill conceived’ and ‘not sustainable’. They point out that the plans do not include adequate access for delivery and service vehicles for the shop and would have a ‘significantly adverse impact’ on the setting of Bury’s Grade II listed station buildings.

Though the revised plans from Peal Estates include 13 affordable housing units, the council’s strategic housing staff say it should have 40.

The parts of the development are only 25m from the 19th century station.

The officer report says: “This, coupled with the close proximity to the listed station buildings, would result in domineering and overbearing development which would erode the views of the station.”

Officers were also concerned about the limited Section 106 money being offered to support local infrastructure.

Ward councillor Julia Wakelam wrote to the committee, because she was unable to attend the meeting, saying she accepted that it was important the ‘gateway’ site was developed and that it comprised much needed small homes on a brownfield site, as favoured in the borough’s Vision 2031 plan.

But she said the height of the buildings would overshadow the station and she criticised the layout

She asked: “Is an all but treeless place, with minimal green spaces, really what housing in Bury should be? ”

But at the meeting another ward councillor David Nettleton said there had been no objections from residents in the ward.

He argued with officers’ views that the development seriously impacted views of the station. He questioned the need for parking for homes so close to public transport suggesting it could provide landscaped areas.

He added: “Drop the two commercial units – they’re more trouble than they’re worth.

“There are faults with this application, but I would rather approve it than have the committee nit picking applications to death.”

He also argued that the lack of open space did not matter when the area had existing open spaces.

Angela Rushen said: “That part of the town is an eyesore. I welcome this proposal.”

However, she said she was concerned about the height of blocks near the station and the loss of parking there.

Alaric Pugh backed approval saying: “What has finally made my mind up is the picture in my mind of the new Cambridge station site where a listed building of more merit than our station has been given a completely new context.

“The tall modern buildings round the station have placed it in a more modern context.”

Other councillors backed the idea of the proposed commercial units reverting to flats.

By a unanimous vote, the committee decided to be ‘minded to approve’ subject to further negotiations of Section 106 money, following a refreshment of the developers’s viability assessment.

They told officers they wanted the negotiations to include looking at alternative ways of accommodating commercial units related to the site and ways of enhacing local public open spaces, including the station square.

Peal Estates said it had been surprised by the officer’s recommendation for rejection.

Before the meeting, Simon Bryan, development director at Peal Estates, said: “We are surprised and disappointed by the planning officers’ recommendation to refuse the application to develop Phase One of the Station Hill site, particularly as the master plan for the development of the site was agreed at the end of June.

“We believe our application is in accordance with this master plan.

“We know that there is a strong desire from local people to rejuvenate this area and we share this vision. Despite the planning officers’ recommendations, we hope that members of the planning committee will acknowledge that the development is in accordance with the master plan and our viability considerations, and move forward with developing this stagnant site.”