AGM review of the year 2020
The big event of the year was teaming up with the Well Street Association to put together a very strong objection to the Appeal by the developers of the vacant Cornhill Walk premises onBrentgovel Street. We have just heard that the Public Hearing is to take place on 8 February, when the Society will be represented by a specialist planning QC – so fingers crossed.
The past eighteen months have also seen a big increase in the number of applications to convert commercial premises into residential use. These have included the upstairs at the Palmers and Argos stores on the Buttermarket, Ashton’s offices on Guildhall Street, Lloyds Bank on Parkway, the Health Centre on Looms Lane, Bowers Motorcycle showrooms on Risbygate Street and Whitworths offices on Hatter Street. Plans were also approved to change the Bank of Scotland premises on Guildhall Street into a restaurant. The Society recognizes the inevitability of these applications, but this did not prevent us from commenting on matters of design, social homes ratios, green credentials and ensuring that room sizes are adequate.
Elsewwhere, the Society expressed general support for the Council’s plans to build a new public sector business hub on Western Way which includes relocating the Leisure Centre. We also commented upon the Council’s potential changes to the approved design for the Post Office. The Society criticized the house designs for both the former gas holder site on Tayfen Road as well as the new homes planned for the former St Louis middle school site on St Andrews Street South. At the Railway Station, we were very supportive of the new car park on the north side together with proposals for the new arched access to a refurbished booking hall.
The Society was generally supportive of the Council’s ambitions as set out in the West Suffolk Local Plan Review. We asked that the review ensures the town retains its status as a ‘go to’ location for shopping, entertainment, employment and education. We also sought assurances to protect the town’s historic environment.
Looking to the future, the Society responded to two Government white papers which seek to increase the number of new homes nationwide and also to make it easier to convert town centre shops and cafes into residential use. We stressed the importance of involving amenity groups such as our own and strongly criticized the alarming suggestion that normal planning rules could be waived in the conservation area.