Emotions were running high at a planning inquiry today, after residents objected to plans for 46 flats to be built between Tayfen Road and Peckham Street in Bury St Edmunds.
The inquiry was held at the Forest Heath District Council offices in Mildenhall and lasted only a few hours despite being scheduled over three days.
The meeting was planned after St Edmundsbury Borough Council failed to reach a decision on the original application which was put forward in March 2017 by developers Kingsway Homes. As a result, the developers resubmitted their application for 46 flats and one commerical unit to be built on the EMG used car site.
But David Whipps, the solicitor representing the borough council, announced at the start of the inquiry that the council no longer opposed the plans, leading inspector Gareth Jones to announce there was now ‘common ground between both parties’.
But residents of Peckham Street and nearby roads attended the meeting to voice their concerns about the proposal.
Charles Coldrey, who lives 100 yards from the site, said his main concerns were the height and look of the new building as well as the possible drop in value of existing buildings.
“The building designs don’t to my mind appear to be very imaginative,” he said.
“We already have buildings of the same kind elsewhere in the town and they are the ugliest buildings in Bury.
“This is a good place for a build and I support a development there but Bury calls itself the jewel in the crown of Suffolk and this is the opportunity to aspire to something more than mediocrity.”
The plans were also opposed by Jill Anderson, a resident of Peckham Street, who criticised the developer for not making plans to build affordable, social housing.
“He wants to build this to make money. He is not doing it out the good of his heart or for the town but to make money for himself,” she said.
“And because of that, there’s going to be a big ugly concrete monstrosity at the foot of our road which, for anyone coming into the town, will be the first thing they see.
“I can’t believe that the borough council can have no objections to this. I object and I think most people in the street object.”
But planning expert, Stephen Hinsley, said that building affordable housing would not be economically viable due to the fact that the site was contaminated with industrial gas in the 1960s and will therefore cost around £1 million to clear.
The architect of the project, John Stebbing, also gave evidence at the inquiry and defended his plans, stating that the members of the public had ‘got the wrong impression’.
“This is a modern, imaginative and exciting proposal using a fairly small palette of materials which link back to Bury’s industrial past,” he said.
“My business is based in Bury and my son and daughter-in-law live in Bury. It’s their town and they want to contribute something great to it.”
Councillor David Nettleton, who respresents the Risbygate ward and lives nearby the site, stated that he was neither in favour of or opposed to the plans, but said that the argument between the residents and the developers was going round in circles.
“The two parties are arguing the same thing. The residents are saying it’s too high and doesn’t fit in with the town’s look while the architects wanted it to be a landmark building that stood out. They’re arguing the same thing but it’s just a matter of different opinion,” he said.
“Bury needs a gateway because what’s there now is unattractive. Some of the arguments are based on the thought that Bury has always looked like this and so should always look this this which isn’t right.
“We have got history but we’re not prisoners of that history. Things can change.”
Mr Jones closed the inquiry and said he would carry out a site visit later today before reaching a final decision.