PUBLISHED: 16:00 08 September 2001 | UPDATED: 10:29 03 March 2010

RESIDENTS of a Suffolk village have claimed that they were being pushed into accepting a proposal to build a Very Sheltered Housing scheme for the elderly on their doorstep.

RESIDENTS of a Suffolk village have claimed that they were being pushed into accepting a proposal to build a Very Sheltered Housing scheme for the elderly on their doorstep.

John Mellis, who strongly opposes the £3 million scheme to build 34 flats for the elderly and frail in Stutton believes that building on land that is outside the planning envelope of the village "insults the principles of the local structure plan."

Literature published by the council "indicated that it had already had the support of planners which is surely prejudicing the issue before an application is even made" added Mr Mellis, of Catts Close.

But officers involved in the scheme hit back, saying the council has followed good practise and that the views of protestors will be considered in full when a planning application goes before the council.

Community Care officer Tim Mason said that individuals or companies wanting to build in a district often seek advice from planners before submitting a full application and the Stutton example was no different.

In this case the venture is jointly planned Babergh District Council, Suffolk County Council and housing association Housing 21.

Mr Mason said that the council had received only "a handful" of letters and one petition signed with 20 names opposing the proposal to build on land off Bentley Lane. All protest had come from residents living close to the site and did not represent a substantial or widespread opposition to the plan.

The council mooted the proposal, prior to a formal application for planning permission by the housing association, in order to "test the water" and the response so far was not enough to stop Babergh backing the scheme, he said.

Supporters of the scheme have accused campaigners of reverting to a knee jerk 'not in my backyard' (NIMBY) reaction. In response Mr Mellis said: "It does happen to be in my backyard in particular but if it was on the other side of the village I would be objecting just as vehemently.

"What is the point of consulting on the local plan when it seems that the local plan can be over written at will."

He believes that the proposal is breathtaking in scale and ugliness, compromises traffic safety and impacts adversely on the scale and character of the village.

Neighbour David Fisk added his voice of concern.

"To remove old and sick people from their communities – and place them in a flat, in a field at the northern edge of Stutton borders on cruelty," he said.

"Do elderly and sick people really wish to end their days in a centre that is positioned on the edge of a village in a location where they will have nothing to do, nothing to see, nowhere to go and no means of going anywhere."

He also has concerns that the development would open the village up to further building. If anything at all Stutton needs affordable housing for young people and not homes for elderly, he claimed.

Mr Mason assured residents that if planning permission were to be granted it would "absolutely not" set a precedent to build on any other part of the field.

It is possible to make an exception to the local plan if there is a village need, he said. Members of the development committee will have to decide "whether it's more important that the scheme is outside the village envelope or whether it's more important that there is a village need."


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