Campaigners celebrate ‘David v Goliath’ victory to stop business park
PUBLISHED: 15:06 17 February 2020
Campaigners are delighted after proposals for a 165-acre port business park on farmland in the middle of the Felixstowe peninsula was rejected by a public inquiry inspector.
Philip Lewis has told East Suffolk Council the allocation for Innocence Farm on the edge of Kirton should be removed from the Local Plan.
He described the likely demand for the project to serve the Port of Felixstowe - on land owned by Trinity College, Cambridge - as "ambitious and optimistic" and felt there was already enough unused land available at the 700-acre port complex and at nearby Clickett Hill for its needs.
The work would also include a new A14 junction - and possible railfreight link - but Mr Lewis said this had not been designed, costed and no funds set aside.
It would be needed ahead of the business park and he had "severe concerns as to whether the proposed allocation is deliverable".
Kirton and Trimley Community Action Group (KATCAG), which has been fighting the proposals, said of the inspector's rejection: "This demonstrates that constructive, collective and sustained action can reap results.
"Innocence Farm is a significant achievement but it is not the whole story. The battle to save our peninsula from urbanisation must and will continue and we still need the support and the commitment of the local communities. KATCAG will fight on."
The group said its representatives at the Local Plan public inquiry had made a "terrific case" on behalf of local residents.
The district council had argued that the land was needed to cope with the port's projected growth and safeguard its future.
Some residents described it as a David v Goliath victory.
Activists from Extinction Rebellion cited the Innocence Farm case among their reasons for digging up part of the lawn of Trinity College in a protest today.
Mr Lewis conducted the inquiry into the Suffolk Coastal Local Plan to shape the area until 2036 - part of the plan for the new East Suffolk district - last summer. He has now written to the council with his final conclusion and modifications needed to ensure it is legal and sound.
Documents showed that there was already more than 165 acres of land suitable for port-related activity available in the Felixstowe area and therefore the Innocence Farm site off Innocence Lane was not needed for warehousing and other port activities.
Available land includes 68 acres earmarked inside the port for 1.45 million sq ft of warehousing and land at Christmasyards Wood in Trimley, plus the 160-acre Clickett Hill site.
Mr Lewis said: "I find that the Innocence Farm allocation is not adequately justified and it has not been shown that the proposal can be delivered over the plan period.
"To address the shortcoming would not be a quick or straightforward matter to resolve as it would involve, amongst other things, detailed work regarding the access to the site."
The site sits behind homes in Kirton Road and between the A14 and Innocence Lane and totals around 200 acres including areas for earth bunds and landscaping.
East Suffolk Council leader Steve Gallant said: "The examination of the Suffolk Coastal Local Plan is a critically important stage and we welcome the Inspector's post hearings letter as part of this examination. His letter follows consideration of all views and submissions to date and although the examination has not yet concluded, the Inspector considers that, subject to modifications, the Plan is capable of being found legally compliant and sound. We have now been invited to prepare modifications prior to public consultation. Following feedback on the consultation the Inspector will report on his final conclusions.
"It is an entirely normal part of the process for changes to be requested and we are very pleased to have now reached this stage. The final Local Plan will cover the period until 2036 and identifies where growth should be located and how it should be delivered, setting out the planning policies used to determine planning applications. It covers the former Suffolk Coastal District area which is now part of the East Suffolk District."