June 2018 - Konings backs down over plans to extend Copella site
A £35 million proposal to build a can-and-bottle factory at Brick Kiln Hill in Boxford has been shelved. The Belgian-based owner, Konings, has withdrawn its planning application in the face of furious opposition from local residents worried about increased traffic, lighting and more HGVs on rural roads.
The Dedham Vale Society was concerned about the impact such a large expansion of the existing site would have on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has been supporting local objectors, the Stop Konings Expansion Group.
The Society wrote directly to the CEO of Konings in Belgium, Dirk Maris, to make him aware of the full cultural significance and landscape status of the Vale, whilst also highlighting concerns regarding potential light pollution at the site.
In addition, the Society made representations to Babergh District Council to object to the planning application and attended a meeting with Konings representatives on site in Boxford to voice its concerns.
The Society argued that the proposed bottling plant, which would have been two thirds larger than the present site, would have been far more appropriate in a different location.
The Society explained that the National Planning Policy Framework requires the applicant to demonstrate that the cost of developing elsewhere is much greater if they are to overcome the statutory presumption against development in the AONB. The Society pointed to attractive sites nearby, such as the former sugar-beet site at Sproughton near Ipswich.
On June 16 2018 Konings wrote to councils to say it will be submitting a revised application, on a smaller scale, to increase the height of a permitted building from 10 to 15 metres and to create a car park at the southern side of the site.
The company claims the increase in height is necessary to give sufficient tank storage space for aseptic juice storage and to give better operational flexibility. The relocation of the car park will allow for some layout changes on the site to take place.
All other elements under the current application will be withdrawn.
The Society is waiting to see the new application before commenting further.
June 2018 - Update on our efforts to keep our night skies dark...
Our Dark Skies sub-committee has been busy!
With hundreds of night-sky light-readings now recorded - and work underway on a cross-Vale light audit, the Society’s application to secure dark-sky status for the AONB is shaping up.
Dark-sky status, awarded by the International Dark Skies Association, would help restrict and reduce light pollution in the Vale and safeguard night skies for future generations. Light pollution can lead to the night sky being hundreds of times brighter than a natural sky, hiding stars from our sight and preventing humans and animals alike from experiencing a natural night.
The Society believes passionately that it is just as important to be able to enjoy a clear, dark, star-studded sky in Constable Country as it is to be able to go on a tranquil walk along the River Stour on a Sunday afternoon.
Over the winter months a small group of dedicated DVS volunteers mapped out the quality of the night skies across the Vale, using sky-meters. The sub-committee has since confirmed that the survey is finished and all the readings fall well within the criteria for IDS Dark Sky Reserve Bronze status.
The next step is to survey all the street lights in the AONB to determine if they are minimally intrusive and to ascertain the colour temperature of each light. Following that, the aim is to create a Light Management Plan for the AONB which will require the buy-in from councils to protect the skies from stray and unwarranted light.
Mike Barrett, a Society volunteer from Polstead, has managed to access the relevant street light data from Suffolk County Council and having checked the lights against the current AONB boundary, has whittled down 10,000 fittings to the 220 most significant ones and plotted them on a map.
He says the vast majority of these are situated in Nayland, Stoke-by-Nayland, Stratford-St-Mary and East Bergholt, with the remaining six in Polstead and Thorington Street. Mike is now trying to work out an effective means of surveying these and collating the information into a workable database.
The Society is hugely grateful to Mike and our team of night sky measurement collectors for their efforts. Securing dark-skies status would protect our dark skies, enhance the visibility of the Dedham Vale, protect its AONB status and boost tourism (astro-tourism in particular) and the local economy.
The International Dark Skies Association runs an award-winning conservation programme to recognise and promote excellent stewardship of the night sky.
The Dark Sky Places Program was started in 2001 to encourage communities around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education.
May 2018 - Could an extension to the AONB be in sight?
The Society is hopeful of receiving news soon from Natural England regarding its on-going campaign to extend the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty upstream, towards the south-west edge of Sudbury.
The campaign, which has lasted almost a decade, faces little, if any, opposition. All three local MPs are in favour, as are all the relevant county, district and parish councils. However, the boundary review process itself is painfully slow. With only a tiny staff assigned by Natural England to do the work, and 13 AONBs currently seeking boundary variations, at the present rate the process will take 50 years to complete.
However, thanks to committed efforts by the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley Partnership, supported by the Dedham Vale Society, we are finally starting to see some movement. AONB project manager, Simon Amstutz, and his team produced a paper on the process of boundary review for the Minister in charge of AONBs, Lord Gardiner. Extensive correspondence followed, resulting in Natural England forming a sub-committee, under a board member, Dr Simon Lyster, to study ways in which the process of evaluating boundary reviews can be speeded up.
The committee is expected to report to the board of Natural England soon.
In addition, as part of the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan, the Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced a review into the nation’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). He has said, “Nearly 70 years after the country’s National Parks were first established, opening up the countryside and allowing more people to connect with nature, an independent panel will look at how these iconic landscapes meet our needs in the 21st century – including whether there is scope for the current network of 34 AONBs and 10 National Parks to expand. The review, to be led by writer Julian Glover, will also explore how access to these beloved landscapes can be improved, how those who live and work in them can be better supported, and their role in growing the rural economy.”
Please find more details at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/national-parks-review-launched