Clash over homes for elderly

PUBLISHED: 14:59 28 August 2001 | UPDATED: 10:28 03 March 2010

VILLAGERS protesting against a proposal to build a £3 million housing scheme for the elderly in Stutton could have to wait until October to have their case heard.

VILLAGERS protesting against a proposal to build a £3 million housing scheme for the elderly in Stutton could have to wait until October to have their case heard.

Housing21 have still not submitted a planning application for the 34 flat development nearly six months after a public exhibition of proposals before Stutton residents and nine months after the plan was first mooted in the press.

The publicity provoked a storm of protest among those living close to the proposed site, on land off Bentley Lane, and residents have since submitted a petition and letters of protest to Babergh District Council, who are planning the scheme jointly Suffolk County Council and the housing association.

They claim access roads to the site are inadequate and that the isolated village lacks facilities for an influx of elderly residents. They are also angered because the application is to build on land outside the planning envelope of the village.

Babergh officers meanwhile are stressing the "crying need" for the scheme which uniquely offers older people the opportunity of very high levels of support whist living in their own home.

"People are living longer and getting frailer and they need support," said Chris Foti, head of housing a Babergh.

The district council was among the first in the region to introduce very sheltered housing schemes to cope with the growing aged population and it is hoped the Stutton project will provide a valuable addition to schemes already running in Sudbury and Hadleigh, he said.

"We looked at a number of sites and we chose that one because we believe the scheme can work there," he added.

In circumstances where the proposed application is for "the benefit of the wider community" an exception can be given to building outside the designated planning envelope, warned Clare David, development control manager at Babergh.

"That's not to say the application will receive a favourable response because it does have to go through a formal application for planning approval," she said. Mrs David also reminded protestors that "there is no basic entitlement to a view" although there are considerations such as the scale and form of the development which would be considered alongside concerns over access, amenities and other "material considerations".

Among those voicing concern over the development is Jamie Norman of Bentley Lane. "We recognise the need for sheltered housing, we just think this is the wrong site," he said, adding that alongside concerns for access and amenities in the village he believed the public relations handling of the issue had been very poor.

"I picked it (the news) up from a fellow villager who had seen it in the paper," he said.

"Nobody wants it here. It's ridiculous they are going to build here. It's miles out of the way. The roads aren't adequate, the health service isn't adequate, the bus service isn't adequate for people to come and visit them," argued fellow campaigner Freda Solomon, 74, of Cattsfield overlooking the proposed site.

Housing21 are expected to submit their application "very soon", said Mr Foti and the proposal was likely to be considered at a Babergh planning meeting in September or October.

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