Can Capel St Mary cope with thousands of new residents?

Capel St Mary

Can Capel St Mary cope with more rapid expansion? - Credit: Paul Geater

Capel St Mary spent centuries as a small Suffolk village a few miles outside Ipswich – but over the last six decades it has grown steadily to become a thriving community of more than 3,000 residents.

Now it is facing the prospect of another major expansion – and there are growing fears about whether existing community facilities could compete with rapid growth.

In the 2011 census, Capel had 2,800 residents. Since then, there has been a new development off Days Road on the north western edge of the village and near the village centre between Thorney Road and London Road.

Now a new planning application has gone in for 519 new homes off Capel Grove next to the A12. If that is built out, following the other two developments, they could push the population of the "village" to about 5,000 by the time they are all finished.

Capel Grove

The proposed new development at Capel Grove, right, is next to the A12. - Credit: Paul Geater

Sue Carpendale represents Capel on Babergh Council and said the community had only recently come to appreciate the scale of what was being proposed.

She said: "This has been in the pipeline for at least five years and (developer) Martin Scott has been very open with people about the plans – and has tried as much as he can to address concerns that have been raised.

"There have been lots of opportunities for people to have their say and express a view, but I think that a lot of people only became aware of what is on the cards after the planning application was actually lodged."

Capel expanded rapidly in the 1960s and 70s. A new village centre with a Co-op, smaller shops, community centre, and other facilities like a doctors' surgery was built.

Capel village centre

Capel Community Centre and shops would struggle to cope with thousands of new residents. - Credit: Paul Geater

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But they are now struggling to cope with the steady growth that has happened since then.

Mrs Carpendale said: "There are good facilities in the middle of the village and they're fine if you can walk there – but there isn't enough parking for most of the day.

"The people at the surgery are wonderful but there are too many people now. We've contacted the NHS but they say the numbers will have to go up more before it can be expanded."

Sue Carpendale

Sue Carpendale believes new homes are needed - but is worried about their impact on the current community at Capel St Mary. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

And then there is the question of access to the proposed site which is next to the A12. Mrs Carpendale said an access from the A12 for traffic coming from Colchester would be safe – but there would be problems for traffic heading to and from Ipswich.

"The A12 is getting busier all the time. Copdock Interchange is a bottleneck already, this will just make things there even worse."

She felt people travelling out of the village to work could put a increasing strain on the A12 – although if more people worked from home that could ease that: "But then you'd need homes designed with space for a home office or workshop," she added.

Despite all the concerns, she felt that the new development was likely to eventually be approved – but it could take some time to be built out: "I'm not sure if many of us will be here to see that!"

And she does understand the need for new homes: "Babergh does need to meet government targets for new homes and people need homes to live in.

"A lot of us have been here a long time and are growing old here – and young people need homes to live in. It is a very difficult issue."

Capel homes

More homes are currently being built in Capel St Mary - as plans for another 519 are being prepared for councillors to discuss. - Credit: Paul Geater

There is growing concern in Capel about the lack of facilities being planned for the village alongside the growth in the number of homes.

The new Capel Grove development does include commercial buildings and a new early years centre but little detail of new community benefits beyond improvements to the playing fields.

And there are also concerns that the growth at Capel, alongside hundreds of new homes being built on the southern fringe of Ipswich at Sproughton and possibly in the future at Copdock, will put an intolerable strain on roads heading into Ipswich from the south.