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Simon Cairns - Letter to Babergh

Page updated - 04 May 2011




20 December 2010



Your ref: B/10/00094



Mr Nicholas J Ward

Chief Planning Control Officer

Natural & Built Environment Division

Babergh District Council

Corks Lane


Suffolk IP7 6SJ



For the attention of: Gareth Durrant, Planning Officer



Dear Mr Ward,


B/10/00094 – Land east of Carson’s Drive, Great Cornard – Erection of 170 dwellings


I am writing on behalf of the Suffolk Preservation Society (the Society) to reiterate our previous objections dated 1 April 2010 regarding the above proposals in the light of the further information recently submitted.




1. Whilst the Society is fully aware of the allocation on this greenfield site, it restates its fundamental objections to the procedure and flawed consideration that resulted in saved policy HS17 of the Adopted Babergh Local Plan Second Revision (2006). The Society believes that the Inspector failed to have due regard to the significance and objectives of the SLA and that no justification existed to redraft the boundary of this designation, apart from political expediency.


2. This site occupies a key area on the edge of the Great Cornard settlement within an attractive rolling landscape of immense scenic and cultural significance. The area features in two of the iconic works of Thomas Gainsborough (‘Cornard Wood’ and ‘Mr & Mrs Andrews). These views from Auberies, Bulmer Tye and Abbas Hall Wood serve to emphasize the scenic beauty of the site and to acknowledge the artistic significance of the area. PPS5 in anticipation of the Heritage Protection Bill now acknowledges artistic merit as a material planning consideration in the determination of applications that affect heritage assets. Policy HE8 of PPS5 (non-designated heritage assets) states that: “The effect of an application on the significance of such a heritage asset or its setting is a material consideration in determining the application”. Annex 2, PPS5 confirms that Significance includes artistic or historic interest. In our opinion, the new policies within PPS5 should be afforded considerable weight in the determination of the current application that affects an iconic mid-eighteenth century landscape prospect of national significance.


3.   The submitted existing and proposed photomontages (ref.VIS02 rev.A) fail to comply with relevant guidance published by the Landscape Institute for the production of photomontages for the assessment of visual impact. Firstly, the views are not verified nor do they state the lens used in the preparation of the image. Secondly, the images do not present the ‘worst case’ scenario being summer views reliant upon mature deciduous screening to mitigate impact.  There is no certainty that this level of screening is achievable within a reasonable timescale and indeed we query whether the images present a credible image of the landscape impact of the scheme. This is unacceptable and contrary to orthodox approaches for the preparation of Environmental Statements. We suggest that this issue is referred to IEMA for review and note that the lead consultants are institute members.


Detailed proposals


4. We believe that the proposed scheme fails to accurately assess the landscape impact of the development on the key view from Abbas Hall Wood (Gainsborough’s ‘Cornard Wood’). The submission states that “the residential development is contained within the western area of the overall site, well below the vision line of the minor ridge”. This is simply not the case. The minor ridge that transects the site falls in height from 62m AOD at the extreme north eastern end to only 38m AOD at its southern end. The spot heights close to the western boundary of the site only fall from 36m AOD at the north-western corner to 34m AOD at the south-western corner of the site. The capacity for the ridge to visually contain the development consequently falls accordingly. The ridge does not in fact perform an effective screening function at the southern end of the site and the proposed houses would be clearly visible from the uplands of Abbas Hall Wood, despite the planned screen planting. 


5. Abbas Hall is one of the oldest domestic buildings in the county (and indeed country) dating from the 1280’s and its grade I listed status reflects this significance. The views to the west across rolling arable lands, framed by the wood, are a key element of the historic setting of the building. In our opinion the Inspector’s assessment of the landscape impact of development failed to give any weight to the cultural significance of the view from ‘Cornard Wood’. It did acknowledge that the view would be marginally affected by development on the southern triangle but this is exacerbated by the scale of development proposed in the current detailed submission.


7. The magnitude of adverse landscape impact is inseparable from the scale of the proposed development. In our opinion, very careful consideration is required of the complex interplay of levels and the massing of development proposed. In particular, given the location of the site on the edge of the settlement, three storey flatted blocks are wholly incompatible with mitigation of the landscape impact of the scheme. These must be deleted in our view. Furthermore, the scale of units should decline to reflect the significantly greater prominence of the southern edge of the site. This should be reflected in a transition from two storeys to one plus attic and finally, single storey only at the extreme southern periphery.


8. The Society is dismayed by the lamentably low quality design of individual units and the complete absence of any evidence of place-making. We believe that this scheme fails to acknowledge the Government’s strong commitment to responsive and sustainable design set out in PPS1 (Para. 33-39 PPS1 and By Design). The proposals are dated and fail to reinforce local distinctiveness or to provide “a usable, durable and adaptable places”. The Society reminds the Council that “Good design should contribute positively to making places better for people. Design which is inappropriate in its context, or which fails to take the opportunities for improving the character or quality of an area and the way it functions, should not be accepted”.


9. The proposed development exhibits no grasp of streetscene, composition or detail. The repetition of standard house types with no consideration of aspect or juxtaposition is lamentable. The roofscape lacks relief and modeling. The proposed three storey flats are particularly devoid of architectural merit or contextual sympathy. In essence, this scheme exemplifies all that PPS1 and ‘By Design’ sought to consign to history. 




9. The proposed scheme remains flawed in principle and detail. The Society objects to the submission for the reasons set out in our representations. We request that our representations are reproduced in full as part of the Officer’s report to committee and not paraphrased.


11. We strongly urge the Council to reject these obviously unsatisfactory proposals for these sounds reasons.


Yours sincerely


Simon Cairns

BSc(Hons), Dip Tp, Dip Bldg Cons (RICS)