Draft Conservation Area Appraisal: Public
meeting in the Village Hall on Saturday 17th August, 2013
In attendance: Robert Scrimgeour (Senior Conservation Office Suffolk Coastal District Council), Michael Gower (County and District Councillor and Chairman of the interim Walberswick Parish Council), John Nichols (Chairman of Walberswick Parish Plan Steering Group) and 51 members of public.
John Nichols opened the proceedings, welcoming residents to the discussion of the draft appraisal of the Walberswick Conservation Area. He explained that the meeting had been arranged to hear at first hand SCDC's Conservation Officer, Robert Scrimgeour, give an explanation of the purpose and method of the appraisal and its recommendations for the continuing protection and enhancement of the Conservation Area.
He added that the appraisal was first published at the end of June, so we were now half way through the three month consultation period and that an objective of this meeting was to encourage as many as possible to participate in the exercise and submit their comments to SCDC before the closing date of 27 September.
John also pointed out that the Stage 2 Action Plan had been endorsed at the village meeting last October with a recommendation that a working party be set up, one of whose tasks would be to prepare for the appraisal in collaboration with the Parish Council. He added that unfortunately the WPC had resigned a few days before the meeting but it was agreed by those present that the working party should proceed to examine the issues and report to the village at an appropriate time. He stated that today's briefing provides that opportunity.
He then introduced Robert Scrimgeour who proceeded to explain that the purpose of the appraisal was to define the character of the Conservation Area highlighting its special qualities i.e. layout, uses, architecture, settings, trees, open spaces, topography and archaeology. The area had been analysed with regard to its history, development and current status using this as a guide to the management of future changes; small changes affecting households and larger affecting new development. He stated that the current boundary (although boundary changes were not being effected in this appraisal) included the built environment but did not include the coast or common. Most of the surrounding countryside setting was preserved by outside sources such as Natural England and the AONB. He stated that the County Archaeologist was suggesting extending the Conservation Area to include the area (WLB010) of the original church and settlement.
An unusual characteristic of Walberswick is its dearth of listed buildings which was rather surprising in such a village. Also under discussion were the trees and green spaces, the character and significant value of gardens, the appeal of the street and buildings as well as gravestones, post boxes, village green and other village features and vistas.
He encouraged people to participate in the Draft Conservation Area Appraisal and submit their own comments before the closing date of 27th September. (The Draft Appraisal can be seen and/or downloaded on the Walberswick Website).
One resident stated that he felt the present government's removal of permitted development in a Conservation Area meant that the appraisal was a waste of time. He also claimed that houses in a CA could be demolished without consent. Mr Scrimgeour stated that this was not true and had never been the case.
Another resident wanted permitted development withdrawn from houses such as the ‘Jennings' houses and for them to have listed status.
He stated that the Conservation Area does not preclude development but it was a question of how the changes were managed. Another resident asked if the Village could put forward its own plan for the requirements of new development via the Parish Council. Robert Scrimgeour replied that this was possible but had rarely happened.
Another resident was concerned that it was necessary to wait until harm could be shown to have resulted from their exercise before the permitted development rights were removed. She felt that removal of the rights was better before the damage was done rather than after.
John Nichols thanked Robert Scrimgeour for his excellent presentation. He reported that the Planning Working Party (Frank Duffy (Chairman), Bill Ungless, Paul Bradley, Alvin Hunt, John Nichols and Alan Gomm) welcomed the draft appraisal as a positive contribution to the safeguarding and enhancement of the Conservation Area. However, with a view to strengthening the document, they would be submitting to SCDC the following responses:
Schedule of corrections: there were some errors of fact in the appraisal which they have pointed out.
Significant Buildings: The appraisal records many buildings of significance, both listed and unlisted, within the Conservation Area. The Group believe there are additional buildings of note, some from the post war era, which should also be included and a schedule and brief evaluation of these will be provided.
Character zones: The appraisal refers to character zones within the Conservation Area including The Green, Ferry Road and Bell Green, The Street, Millfield Road and Leveretts Lane. The Planning Working Party believes the features identifying each zone should be more comprehensively defined. The Group also considers that the enclaves served by The Lea and Hidden Lane behind the sea wall should be designated character zones and similarly defined.
Views into and out of the Conservation Area: The appraisal records some significant views within and from the Conservation Area but none of the Conservation Area when seen from the outside. However, the topography of the village in relation to its open surroundings of river, marshes and dunes, gives the perimeter of the Conservation Area a particular visibility which they think should be recognised and safeguarded.
Extent of the Conservation Area: The appraisal is restricted to the Conservation Area as presently defined. However, given that 64% of respondents to the Stage 1 Survey wanted the area extended to incorporate the whole village envelope, the working party will submit a request for a boundary review so that the issue can be examined after the present exercise has been completed.
One resident asked if the Group would be presenting their findings to the village for consultation before the closing date of submission to Suffolk Coastal District Council. The Chairman stated that the village had given the Parish Plan Steering Group full support, at the launch on 13th October 2012, for Working Parties to act on their behalf. The Planning Working Party was carrying out this undertaking. He did not consider there would be time for another meeting to be held but their document would be placed on the Walberswick Website and residents could respond to SCDC accordingly. Another resident pointed out that governments do change and that future ones may be more sympathetic to conservation areas.
John Nichols thanked everyone for coming to the meeting and asked them to submit their comments to SCDC by 27th September.
Viv Hunt - Secretary Walberswick Parish Plan - Steering Group