Held on Tuesday 22nd March 2023 at 7.30pm in the Christian Fellowship Church.
Andrea Long (via Zoom), Sam Coster, Anne List, Ali Doe, Austen Williams, Virginia Twentyman, Paul Roberts and Steve Thompson.
1. Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Matthew Bradbury and Steph Amey. Apologies for absence at the previous meeting were received from Virginia
2. Accuracy of Minutes
The minutes of the previous meeting held on 28th February 2023 were agreed as correct.
3. Draft Neighbourhood Plan
Andrea explained that until the AECOM draft Site Assessments document had been corrected of errors notified by the group, and accepted, it could not yet be incorporated into the draft Plan. The AECOM assessments are independent of interested parties. She explained that the draft assessments included more sites than those submitted as a result from the ‘call for sites’. They included GNLP sites that have been provisionally accepted and also those rejected by GNLP, and they had all been assessed using the same criteria. AECOM had initially assessed each one for the primary uses required by the steering group and then for validity of the uses the site’s own sponsors had submitted.
The results showed that all the sites had some constraints to use. It was noted that according to AECOM’s assessment, GNLP0520 (commonly known locally as Hops2) did not seem suitable for development, contrary to GNLP. Andrea explained this did not mean the site was not developable but that it wasn’t suitable for the Neighbourhood |Plan’s requirements for parking, community use or energy generation.
Steph pointed out that the assessment of Ladies Meadow did not show that access could be closer to the cemetery. Sam asked if it was possible for a strip of land for pedestrian access was to be obtained from the Diocese this would make access easier to join up with the footpath from Rectory gardens to The Fairland. The group agreed that this idea should be pursued.
Steph commented that the draft report had reused certain phrases in a number of sections rather than individual descriptors. Steve questioned if the mention of Ladies Meadow being within the Old Buckenham airfield safeguarding area, making them a statutory consultee to development, was an error. Sam commented that the land north of Springfield Way referred to as GNLP 0501, 0502 and 0503 although originally submitted for housing, had not been approved by GNLP (0503mnwas approved but later withdrawn by the owners), could be suitable for extending the sports facilities in future.
Ali pointed out that the Hardingham Road site was not thought suitable for development by GNLP due to access issues via Ringers Lane and Hardingham Road, however it had not been considered for energy production or leisure use. Steve asked if the vehicle access to the site off Hall Close could be looked at again for suitability by AECOM.
The group asked Andrea to follow up all the comments mentioned in feedback to AECOM in order to obtain a second site assessment draft.
4. Correspondence from Mr Bedford
Steve explained that a letter dated 8 March 2023, some emails and a sketch plan with two photos had been received from Geoff Bedford. He had also submitted a hard copy of 2022 Hingham Road Safety Campaign report and had been to see Paul recently to ask questions about the Neighbourhood Plan. The letter was almost identical to one received on 14 March 2022. It was felt that insufficient discussion had taken place previously about the subject matters contained in these communications and that they would be covered at this stage prior to the next public consultation. Mr Bedford had three main topics with his suggestions as to some solutions.
- Mr Bedford suggested that the issue of parking in Hingham could be resolved by the existing Fire Station site being closed, turned into a public car park and that a new Fire Station could be constructed in one of the new housing developments.
The steering group debated this and decided not to support the idea for a number of reasons. It was not thought to be practical to have a fire station amongst a new housing development because of noise disturbance during emergency call outs as well as on weekly training sessions; the height of a training tower exceeded two storeys, which the Neighbourhood Plan was trying to avoid; there would be a potential for breach of privacy from the tower; the existing site had not long been refurbished at cost to public funds (NCC) and it was not though likely NCC or a developer would want such a facility in a housing development.
- Mr Bedford suggested that Hingham needed a better identity that could be achieved by use of welcome branding signs, construction of a history centre, town office and tourist information point.
The group entirely agreed with these concepts and it was pointed out that a recent successful Parish Partnership Bid by HTC was aimed at improving welcome branding, gateway entrances and improved speed signs to the town, especially in respect of Norwich Road. If Ladies Meadow was successfully purchased by HTC and the Neighbourhood Plan agreed to include the site for parking, leisure and community use, this would potentially provide the ideal location for a town office, history centre and tourist information point. This was already a long term aspiration of HTC.
- Mr Bedford suggested that the B1108 Norwich Road required drastic rethinking to improve road and pedestrian safety, speed compliance and a more welcoming entrance to the town from the eastern direction. Mr Bedford had supplied a sketch plan and a suggestion that the development of GNLP0520 provided an opportunity to construct a roundabout entrance to the new development at the junction with Ironside Way. In addition it was suggested that the existing stretch of Norwich Road from the roundabout be separated into two separate carriageways either side of the 4 protected oak trees. The existing two way road outside 43 Norwich Road, east to Ironside Way would become a single eastward carriageway with the redundant nearside lane becoming part widened pavement and part layby and bus stop. The new westward single carriageway would commence from Ironside Way and run to the south of the trees to re-join the existing road at an angle opposite 43 Norwich Road. This carriageway would provide a pull-in layby and bus stop. This layout would require a right turn protected section to allow access to and from Bacon’s. The land needed for the new carriageway would be on the site of GNLP0520.
A long discussion took place about these suggestions with the group studying the sketch plan provided. It was agreed that this suggested scheme would not be incorporated into the Neighbourhood Plan for the following reasons. Whilst on the face of it a roundabout might seem like a good idea, in this particular suggestion it was believed to be in the wrong location. A roundabout entrance to the new development was contrary to the existing agreed policy that entrances should be open landscaped entrances similar to that existing already at other locations in Hingham such as Hopsack Road. The roundabout was located too close to the bend from the Norwich direction, providing poor visibility on approach from the east. A roundabout would likely cause traffic queues at some times of the day which would cause more danger to traffic approaching the bend into Hingham from the east. This would not be acceptable to the householder prior to the roundabout as safe access to from their property is already difficult.
The GNLP plan proposes a pedestrian crossing on Norwich Road, which was not believed to be compatible with the suggested scheme. The right hand turn into and out of Bacons would be dangerous due to the trees blocking the view of oncoming eastwards traffic. This would also cause difficulty for HGVs who might have to block either carriageway to safely enter or exit. The distance overall of the new carriageway is estimated to be 220m of which here is 57m from the roundabout to the centre point of Bacon’s turn in. The last 32m is the angled return of the westward carriageway to re-join the existing road. Whilst possibly having an effect of slowing traffic, this angle will increase noise and emissions by the fact vehicles especially HGV and farm traffic will have to slow, change gear and accelerate again. Lights from vehicles would be facing the front of Mr Bedford’s (or any subsequent owner) own home.
Any new carriageway requires to be located sufficiently far away from the existing trees to allow safe maintenance and prevent overhang and branch dropping on the carriageway. As a result it was not believed on a development of the proposed size of GNLKP0520 that sufficient space would be provided by the owner as the site cannot be displaced any further to the south. The group were not satisfied that the suggested scheme would be affordable from any developer provided funds and that NCC would be highly unlikely to provide funding as the proposal does not unlock further development land.
The group felt that they were already trying to address traffic calming measures to new developments by way of the policies already agreed in the draft plan. Ali confirmed that traffic calming was also being pursued by way of the installation of improved speed signs and gateway welcome signage on the B1108, to be gained from the recent successful Parish Partnership bid.
Andrea advised that a Neighbourhood Plan’s ability to influence highways matters was limited, especially in this case where GNLP submissions have already been made. However, the group were agreed that individuals and interested parties such as HTC will have the opportunity to submit comments about the layout and entrance to the new development if the Hops2 site is eventually submitted for formal planning permission with SNDC.
It was agreed that a letter of response to Mr Bedford would be sent by Sam once it had been circulated and agreed by the members.
5. Views and Non-designated Heritage Assets
A discussion took place regarding View No.7 as Steve pointed out that Hops2 if developed as suggested by GNLP this view from Norwich Road would disappear. Ali asked for the view to be retained in the draft plan as GNLP0520 was not yet decided. The group agreed to retain this view.
Sam reported that he had completed and circulated his draft NDHA report. He had still to discover the history of the Library building. Ali agreed to supply the details. Steve pointed out that the old chapel in Chapel Lane was a private residence and Sam agreed to amend the description to reflect this fact. Sam undertook to obtain a suitable map from Rachel to mark the NDHA locations thereon.
6. Next Steps
Andrea explained that Rachel was going to obtain appropriate mapping. Andrea will complete the Policies sections and refer the groups comments about Ladies Meadow and other sites back to AECOM. She asked that the next meeting set out the consultation dates and process.
The draft plan should go to HTC for approval prior to the public consultation phase. Due to local elections taking place on 4 May, it is likely to be the first week of June before HTC will discuss the draft plan. If it is approved by HTC there follows a 6 week public consultation including statutory consultees and SNDC.
Ali requested that invoices were required from Andrea and Rachel prior to 31 March so that any unused grant money could be calculated for possible return to source.
A letter had been received from Mr Geoff Bedford dated 8 March 2023 along with several emails and a sketch plan. He had also spoken to Paul and Steve. An initial acknowledgement had been sent by Sam. The content of these communications has already been discussed in the meeting.
8. Date of next meeting
The next meeting of the Steering Group will be on 25th April 2023 at the same venue.
The meeting then closed.