Green councillor replies to Thurston Parish frustration over planning

16 November 2017

Dear Editor,

I write on behalf of the Green Group of Mid Suffolk District Council (MSDC) which feels that Thurston deserves answers to its letter (EADT 10.11.17). They ask why councillors allowed 800+ houses to be approved and how district councillors have failed to hold the Authority to account over the issue of not having a five-year land supply.

The Green Group of councillors have been aware of this land supply issue for over 4 years; we have put forward at every budget setting meeting since, alternative proposals that would have helped MSDC retain or regain its five-year supply. We all along feared the consequences of losing that Government imposed requirement, consequences Thurston and many other rural villages will now have to live with. Our Group put forward a motion to full Council (referred without debate) and raised questions at Executive meetings. Our Group even provided a briefing on housing land supply to all members of the Council, including its implications. Our persistence in pursuing this issue led to the Council appointing a lawyer who took a whole year to investigate the Green Group’s public criticisms on this and other matters.

We could not understand why the Council did not react more quickly to the lack of a five-year land supply, wondering whether it was a strategic decision or lack of attention to an emerging problem.

For our Group’s part, we made this a key issue in our alternative budgets for four years running and tried to get MSDC to take the issue more seriously despite being threatened with legal sanctions. I shudder to think how much council tax payers’ money was spent on essentially gagging our Group on this issue for over a year.

On behalf of our Group I apologise we were not more effective; in our defence we did try and continue to try to hold the Conservative administration to account for its shortcomings, because we know that our communities suffer if we fail.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Stringer
Green Group Leader – Mid Suffolk District Council

Thurston Parish Council Letter 

EADT 10 November 2017

Dear Editor,

OPEN LETTER FROM THURSTON PARISH COUNCIL

In an astonishing display of complete disregard for local people, Members of the Planning Referrals Committee, via majority decisions, meekly followed advice from their planners to build over 800 homes in Thurston at its meeting on 1st November 2017.

The Parish Council reminded members of the Planning Referrals Committee present that they were representing the people who voted them into power in the belief they would do the right thing by them, represent them on key issues, and stand up for them when the chips were down.
They were assured that the Parish Council understood the pressure from the government, their officers and the developers to build and reminded them that they had more than enough evidence to support a decision not to approve.
They were asked to stand up and be counted and do what the people who put their trust in them and voted for them expected, to follow their conscience.

They didn’t. Instead they laid down weakly, ignoring the Parish Council and Thurston’s District Councillors.

Approval for housing has been given without an Infrastructure Development Plan for Thurston; any certainty of a solution to the safety problems at the railway station foot crossing which will increasingly put lives at risk or lead to possible closure of the Cambridge-bound platform; any regard to continued concerns to mitigate highway solutions and approving questionable proposals for Fishwick Corner and the A143/Thurston (Bunbury Arms) Junction; any certainty of health provision for the village; or any solution to the current parking problems, never mind parking problems associated with increased railway station usage.

The decision makes mockery of the emerging New Local Plan. Forget that.

Thurston, as one of 12 Key Service Centres, is now shouldering a huge share of the District's long-term needs in one fell swoop: some 818 dwellings plus the 97 apartments at the Granary by the station and numerous in-fill sites already agreed. It is in no way an equitable share.

Mid Suffolk District Council Officers and Councillors have failed to provide a 5-year housing land-supply, and this has put developers in the driving seat with the local community having to live with the consequences of the Council’s failings.

You would hope Councillors would have asked,
‘Why has this happened?’
‘Who is responsible for this debacle?’
‘Whose fault is it?’

They won’t and haven’t. The planners they employ have failed. The District Councillors themselves have failed to hold them to account.

So, hard luck Parish Councils, Locals and their District Representatives facing developers and their planning applications. If you speak up, you’ll be told ‘tough.’

 






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