PLANNING MANIFESTO 2009

The purpose of this manifesto is to set out some general principles which the Society believes should be followed in new planning applications in the Southwold and Reydon area. It is hoped that by doing this the Society, and its members, can influence positively those who initiate new developments, those who have power to approve or reject them, and those who carry them out.

We commend the Southwold Town Appraisal [March 2007] and agree with most of its recommendations and policy goals. Waveney District Council[WDC] has issued draft Character Appraisals and Management Plans for the Southwold Conservation Area and for Southwold Harbour and Walberswick Quay. Although these Appraisals are full of excellent detail about the history and buildings of the area, the Management Plans lack clarity. They should be strengthened, incorporating the Society’s proposals and recommendations, before final publication.

The character of the Southwold and Reydon area depends on a number of factors – the natural landscape, the historic legacy, the architecture, and what is a quintessential popular seaside resort – which we discuss in more detail below. This character is under threat. We are aware of local concerns about some recent planning decisions, together with a sense of remorseless pressure from developers to exploit the high property values in the area. There are few Greenfield sites for new development so Brownfield sites, and the prospect of building ‘upwards’, therefore attract developers.

A large portion of Southwold has been designated a Conservation Area and this means, in the words of the relevant Government web-site:

Your Council has the power to require a very high standard of design which is sympathetic to the existing environment. New development must make a positive contribution to the character of the area.

These principles are valid for the whole Southwold and Reydon area, and we believe that WDC should be supporting the spirit of conservation area guidelines more rigorously.

We recognise that the residential character of the area is evolving. In Reydon the majority of properties are owned by permanent residents, whereas in the Conservation Area of Southwold, 65% of the properties are likely to be second homes within ten years. Within the decade the overall proportion of second home ownership for Southwold, as a whole, will be around 40%. Regular visitors to the area can make a valuable contribution to its economy and many become permanent residents. However we are dismayed by the significant number of properties that remain empty for most of the year. We need to find ways for visitors, part-time residents and second-home owners to become more involved in the community and to use local shops, and businesses.

The Southwold and Reydon Society is not against new development per se. We recognize that there have been some very attractive and beneficial new developments in the area in the past decade, for example:

the new Southwold Pier;
the Electric Picture Palace;
the Adnams brewery site on East Green;
the new Adnams distribution site in Reydon;
the new groynes, raised Southwold beach and new flood defence measures at Botany Marshes;
the Godell sports pavilion on the common;
the Southwold museum extension and refurbishment.

To accentuate the positive, the Southwold and Reydon Society plan to initiate an award to an individual, a group or a business for inspired and excellent contributions to the Southwold and Reydon environment or experience.

However, we are unhappy or apprehensive about a series of developments either nearing completion, underway or being proposed. For example Tibby’s Green housing, the Southwold Service Station site, proposals for the Pier Pavilion, Child’s Yard, the former Eversley School playing fields an old allotment site in North Road and one at Rope Walk. We are not convinced that WDC uses its powers consistently or always to the benefit of our community and our visitors. We have tried, therefore, to lay out some principles that could guide future proposals and their approval. Many of them echo those of the 2007 Town Appraisal and we believe that WDC, as well as the Town and Parish Councils, should always bear in mind, and accept, that well-considered local views should prevail wherever possible.

What is the character of the Southwold, Reydon and Walberswick area that makes it special? Both the Southwold and WDC documents do an excellent job of characterizing this. In brief the key elements are:

the natural landscape: the coast, cliffs, dunes, river, marshes, reed beds;
the historic legacy: fishing and sea-faring, the churches, the eighteenth century character of the Southwold Conservation Area, the Greens, the Common;
a quiet seaside resort that has changed little over the past century; its boarding houses, holiday lets, beach huts, day trippers, and the pier;
a famous brewery, exceptional pubs, hotels, shops, restaurants and cafes
the serene and peaceful countryside and riverside in Reydon.
To maintain this character requires a series of interrelated planning principles. We have selected eleven that we believe are of greatest importance.

Protection against flooding from the sea and the River Blyth.

We must accept that a century from now, if present trends continue, the map of this area may look very different from that of today. Current expert forecasts are for an average effective sea level rise of twice the amount that was being forecast 2-3 years ago. Nevertheless, for the next two decades we believe that hold the line is feasible and the correct policy. We therefore applaud the efforts of the Environment Agency, WDC and other bodies in rebuilding the beach and groynes, and in providing a new flood barrier at Botany Marshes, and the efforts of the Blyth Estuary Group to maintain the riverbanks. Over the next 10-20 years the issue of erosion at Easton Bavents will become critical, and we believe there is a strong case for safeguarding the area immediately north of the pier by improvements to the sea wall and the construction of groynes on the beach.

We support the Southwold Town Council’s efforts to maintain and enhance the Harbour, its environment and facilities soon to be under the control of the Harbour Lands’ Trustees.

Building developments should be in harmony with the architecture of their surroundings and should make a positive contribution to the character of the area.

Original details and style are welcome provided they do not tend towards eccentricity. WDC has a duty of care to ensure that developments make a positive contribution to the character of the area, as required by Government guidance for conservation areas. Context is everything.

Developments to be in scale with their surroundings and to avoid significantly changing the skyline views of the area.

New buildings higher than three storeys should, in general, not be allowed. The fourth storey at the Tibby’s Green housing development should not have been approved, and the overpowering impact of this development, as viewed from Field Style Road, is unacceptable. Similarly a four or five-storey building on the site of Pier Pavilion would be an unacceptable intrusion.

We should avoid remorseless increasing housing density by packing multiple units onto inappropriately small sites.

Waveney Council has a duty to resist pressure from developers to do this.

For new buildings and renovations, including any in the Conservation Area, energy conservation should be an important consideration.

We must not be seduced, by tradition and conformity, into ignoring the most import issue of our time, namely climate change.

We would welcome clarification of the Red Line, limiting developments close to the coastline.

There is no mention of this in the two above referenced documents.

We shall initiate a debate on the steadily increasing number of second homes, particularly in Southwold, that are empty for a large part of the year.

We shall approach the Chamber of Trade with a view to discussing matters of mutual interest and co-operation.

No development should be agreed that worsens the parking situation in the immediate area.

Parking provision has to be an integral part of any proposal. We support, in principle, Southwold Town Council’s efforts to create a new car park on Might’s Road, and suggest that usage of this would be enhanced if a circular shuttle service, from the car park via the Pier to Market Square, were provided in the summer.

We strongly support a policy of including affordable housing for local residents and workers in any new development, and ensuring that such housing continues in this use when such properties change hands.
Local housing trusts and associations can play a key role here.

We support the efforts of Southwold Town Council and Reydon Parish Council to represent the views of residents and visitors, and believe that the WDC should heed their recommendations.

We are committed, constitutionally, to work with all organizations interested in the future of the area.