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Criticism raised over Needham Market Middle School homes plan with “terrible” access

PUBLISHED: 15:24 08 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:10 09 December 2018

The Needham Market Middle School site where the homes are planned, while concerns have been raised by locals over the narrow access from The Causeway and School Street Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

The Needham Market Middle School site where the homes are planned, while concerns have been raised by locals over the narrow access from The Causeway and School Street Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

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Plans to build 41 homes on the former Needham Market Middle School site have raised fresh concerns from neighbours who say the proposals are much different to those originally proposed.

The former Needham Market Middle School,where plans have been lodged for new homes Picture: GREGG BROWNThe former Needham Market Middle School,where plans have been lodged for new homes Picture: GREGG BROWN

A public meeting was organised by Needham Market Town Council on Saturday, December 8, at the community centre next to the former school site, where the plans could be viewed and comments submitted.

The school closed in July 2015, before Mid Suffolk District Council bought the site from the county council at the end of last year and a consultation on initial proposals for homes and a library got underway in the summer.

The district council last week announced it had submitted a formal planning application for the site, as well as its plans to redevelop its former council offices.

But during Saturday’s meeting, featuring well over 60 people, concerns were raised over the changes to the plans, which now featured more homes closer to the community centre, as well as the narrow roads leading to and from the site causing issues for traffic and the safety of pedestrians – particularly dog walkers and those with prams or wheelchairs.

Steve Phillips, the town council’s deputy mayor, said: “The main thing here is to gain the objections and fors of the residents and so they can also be briefed on what the plans are.

“They [Mid Suffolk] have changed the plans totally from proposals they showed the public to start with.

“The chance to get this right will never come again so it really needs to be challenged now.”

Town council colleague Pat Potter said it was “scandalous” that the district council had not provided more consultation events with locals in light of the changes and said there was a “real worry” an accident could happen on the roads which would lead to “blood on Mid Suffolk’s hands”.

Martin Spurling, manager of the community centre which backs on to the site, raised fears that the venue could be slapped with noise restriction notices if anyone moving into the new homes complained, as it often hosted live bands and wedding receptions.

“The community centre does an awful lot for nothing,” he said.

“We have older groups here and we have weddings and conferences – that’s where we generate the money so we can put on the voluntary events.

“Doing this they will really cripple our community centre.”

Mid Suffolk District Council leader Nick Gowrley last week said that the former council offices redevelopment into 49 houses and 12 apartments “along with the affordable housing, library and community facilities on the former middle school site, these applications could help Needham Market thrive for years to come”.

To view the plans and find out more, visit the Mid Suffolk planning portal here and search application reference DC/18/04811.

What you made of the plans

Dozens of people turned out for the meeting at the community centre. Here are some of the thoughts from those attending:

Sylvia Watson: “The main concern here is highways. [Suffolk] Highways have not made an objection but you can see the access is impossible.”

Ruth Coomber: “I am generally supportive of affordable housing. It’s not about housing in Needham Market but it’s about the safety and understanding in the town and assuring the community we can get around our town safely. I feel the district council have been completely unfair to Needham Market – we were shown a different plan and we all came along and made comments – this is completely different.”

Louise Mills: “I personally think the issue is that the development being proposed is not in the interests of the local community. Mid Suffolk District Council aren’t taking into consideration the concerns of residents.

Melvin Bloomfield: “You can see it’s not accessible, it’s ridiculous. It’s straight forward – the access is terrible, we all know that. If it was a private developer there is no way they would get planning permission on that. The infrastructure is still not there.”

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