Traffic, schools and drainage issues set to delay Ipswich Garden Suburb decision

The junction of Henley Road and Valley Road

The junction of Henley Road and Valley Road - Credit: Archant

A decision on whether to approve one of Ipswich’s biggest housing developments - the Northern Fringe - looks set to be delayed because of concerns over traffic and provision of schools.

Ipswich Borough Council is now unlikely to make a decision about how the development, now known as Ipswich Garden Suburb, should be developed until the middle of next year, it has emerged.

In total, around 3,500 new homes would be built between Henley Road and Tuddenham Road in an arc between Valley Road and Westerfield.

Borough planners had thought the authority might consider granting outline planning permission for the first two elements of the project early in 2017.

But now we can reveal Suffolk County Council is unhappy at proposed changes to the road network, drainage, and wants more clarity about the provision of new schools – so the decision is likely to be delayed for several months.

The county council has already raised concerns about the proposed development of land between Westerfield Road and the East Suffolk rail line.

Now its cabinet is set to discuss the Henley Gate development between the rail line, Henley Road, and Westerfield village.

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Ipswich council’s development control committee chairman Peter Gardiner said it would make sense to bring the two applications together at the same time – and officers would need more time to look at the issues raised.

County planning and transport officials have concerns about the likely impact on traffic in the north of Ipswich, on drainage in Westerfield, and want to know more about the school proposals.

An outline planning application for Henley Gate, with 1,100 homes, has been submitted to Ipswich council by developer Crest Nicholson.

The county council is a consultee and its cabinet members will consider the application at its meeting tomorrow.

The report to cabinet says proposals to deal with traffic issues in the application are inadequate.

There are proposals to change the Henley Road/Valley Road junction – including banning some manoeuvres currently allowed there. Highways officers are worried the changes currently proposed would encourage more traffic to use residential streets including Dales Road and Dale Hall Lane.

The report says there is a potential to introduce a bus route through the new housing area – but this could only be fully achieved once the entire 3,500 development is nearing completion.

The county says there is already a serious drainage problem in the area – and does not believe the application does enough to address concerns about the impact of a substantial number of new homes.

The application does include a new country park – but there are concerns that flooding problems in Lower Road Westerfield could increase.

The report says: “Until revised information is provided, such as a revised surface water drainage strategy, the county council cannot confirm how the site would be drained without increasing flood risk or pollution off the site, or achieving adequate standards of flood protection on the site.”

A new primary school for the area is included in the outline planning application – but the county says it needs more details about a new high school that would need to be built for the entire development, before it could back this first phase of it.

Henley Gate

Ipswich council’s development committee chairman Peter Gardiner said the county council’s concerns about the Henley Gate area of the Northern Fringe development were similar to the objections raised about the Fonnereau area on the other side of the rail line.

In both cases, traffic was a major issue – as was the drainage and planning for school places.

And because both developments would be part of the Ipswich Garden Suburb, it made sense for them to be considered together.

He said: “There are elements like new bridges over the railway line where there is clearly a need to coordinate the plans.

“And, given that the concerns raised by the county council about Henley Gate are similar to those on the other side of the line, they should be considered together. I think we are probably looking towards the middle part of next year.”

That timescale will delay Crest Nicholson’s plans to develop the site. The company had hoped to win planning permission in early 2017 and to start carrying out infrastructure work during the year, allowing it to begin housebuilding in 2018.

It held an exhibition for residents earlier this year outlining the plans for the development.

Duncan Innes, regional development director for Crest strategic projects, said: “Crest Nicholson is aware of this holding response from Suffolk County Council. We are in close liaison with both the county council and Ipswich borough as we answer questions and make clarifications on a number of matters.

“We are committed to the vision for a successful Garden Suburb and we anticipate a determination of our planning application for Henley Gate in early 2017.”

Rod Brooks, from the Northern Fringe Protection Group, said there were still many issues to be resolved and was not surprised to hear that a decision from the borough council was expected to be delayed.

He said: “This is a very important decision for the town and there are major concerns which need to be sorted out.

“The [borough] council is expecting to also get an inspector’s report on its local plan within the near future and that will have to be taken into account as well.”

And Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, whose constituency includes the Henley Gate area, was pleased to hear the county council had raised concerns.

He said: “There are serious worries about the traffic and drainage issues. They have to be sorted out before there can be any thought of going ahead with this development.

“I am pleased to hear the county council is raising them at this early stage.”

How many homes?

The Ipswich Garden Suburb is a swathe of land stretching from Tuddenham Road and the Felixstowe branch line in the east, to Henley Road and Lower Road, Westerfield in the north west.

A planning inquiry concluded as many as 4,500 homes could be built in the area – but the borough council says a more likely and sustainable figure is 3,500.

The area is split into three separate “neighbourhoods” of roughly similar sizes which are controlled by different developers and are likely to be built at the same time as each other.

The construction of the new development is likely to take several years, depending on the strength of the economy, and could take as many as 10 years to complete.

The Henley Gate area, controlled by Crest Nicholson, is north of the rail line and extends from Henley Road towards the village of Westerfield.

Crest Nicholson wants to build 1,100 homes on the site – along with a primary school, community centre, local shops, and two bridges over the rail line.

The site would also include a country park to provide a “buffer” between the new development and the village of Westerfield. There is also a planning application lodged for the “Fonnereau” area between Henley Road, Westerfield Road, Valley Road, and the rail line.

This application is for 900 homes from developers CBRE and Mersea Homes. It would also include a primary school, local shops and community facilities.

This is the application that is now likely to be considered at the same time as that for Henley Gate.

The “Red House” area is between Valley Road, Westerfield Road, Tuddenham Road, and the rail line. As well as hundreds of homes that would also have a primary school, shops and community facilities.

This neighbourhood would also include a new high school to be built near Westerfield railway station.

A masterplan for the site was drawn up for the borough council by planning experts David Lock Associates and this is being used as the basis for the development of the site.

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