Saxmundham Neighbourhood Plan

Discussions with developer Pigeon over 800 home South Sax ‘Garden ‘Neighbourhood Masterplan’

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024 7:45 pm

Since December last year, members of the expanded Saxmundham Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group (NPSG) have held a series of sessions with senior representatives of Pigeon, the development company that is seeking planning consent for

  • a new 800 dwelling ‘garden neighbourhood’ to the south of Saxmundham (to the west of the railway line, with no built development on The Layers)
  • an employment area to the west of the A12 by-pass, and
  • a service station area, also to the west of the A12, with electric charging, refreshments and hotel

The purpose is to contribute via ‘community engagement’ to the “Masterplan” for the site, which will then lead to planning applications based on the Masterplan.  This means that – if we are to influence the shape of the future development – we need to influence what goes into the Masterplan.

Our commitment – to engage with the developer to do the best for our town’s future

Most of this proposed development – which will add almost 40% to the town’s population – is in line with the Suffolk Coastal Local Plan’s policy, adopted by East Suffolk Council in September 2020.  Our town’s Neighbourhood Plan is, by law, not allowed to overturn or contradict Local Plan strategic policies. 

Back in early 2021, Sax Town Council therefore made a commitment of principle

  • to cooperate with the developer(s) of the new neighbourhood in implementing the Local Plan in the best way,
  • to engage fully and constructively to ensure that it is both successful and well-designed in its own terms, and also contributes positively to the town’s economic, social and environmental life, and
  • to ensure that an appropriate contribution is made by the developer(s) in terms of new community facilities and infrastructure.

The aim was to ensure that the development meets the requirements of the Local Plan policy and relates to the site allocated. In fact, Pigeon are seeking to add an additional site – the area to the west for the service station in particular – which is not in the Local Plan. 

The Local Plan policy for south Saxmundham affirms that

“This new development will be delivered through a masterplan approach brought forward through landowner collaboration and community engagement.

Critical to the success of this masterplan will be the integration of the new garden neighbourhood with the existing community of Benhall and Saxmundham, as well as taking into account the location of the site.”

The purpose of our “community engagement” sessions with Pigeon has been to make sure, as far as we can, that the development will be as positive for Saxmundham as can reasonably be achieved.  This covers the actual planning, layout and design of the site, and also to realise benefits through new or improved community facilities.

Proposed development area border marked in red – land to west of A12 for employment and service areas; land between A12 and railway mainly for housing, primary school, community hub; land to east of railway, open space


What we want to achieve

 In short, we want a development that lives up to its name – a well-designed and attractive garden neighbourhood which is well connected physically and socially to the existing town, and supports people’s health and well-being.

There will be a new roundabout from the A12 facing both east and west – east into the main housing area, west to the new employment area and (if permitted) service area.  There are however no direct road links to the town centre, so achieving several upgraded cycle- and footpath links is essential.  Pigeon propose new cycle/footpaths across the existing  railway bridge down to South Entrance, and along the side of the secondary school playing fields across to Seaman Avenue.  We have proposed that a further link is essential – direct to the station, via a new path through the edge of the cemetery.

For the main site, we propose that while motor vehicle access must be provided, the whole focus should be on priority for cyclists and pedestrians.

Community facilities – towards an indoor Sport and Fitness Centre

Another factor is the future of the Saxmundham secondary  school, which closes in its present form in late summer this year.  It seems likely that part of the site will be used in future as a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities school, but that should leave part of the site for other uses.  Since a large part of the site is playing fields, we believe that recreational uses should continue.

Our proposal – whether on the former school site or elsewhere in the development – is for the creation of an indoor sports and fitness centre, which would serve residents of both the new development, and the existing town. The first need is to identify the site, which we believe the developer should provide, especially since their proposals for the service area go beyond the Local Plan’s policy.  In the large-scale household survey we carried out in 2019, an indoor sports provision was (after improved health provision) the highest priority choice.

What is already required by the Local Plan

The Local Plan includes the following points (in addition to basic site infrastructure) that are in any event to be included:

  • a one-form entry primary school, on a site that enables further expansion and early years provision;
  • land on the site reserved for a new ‘early years provision’;
  • Community hub comprising a variety of services and facilities to be located in an accessible location;
  • a significant area of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG), formal and informal open spaces, circular walks, retention and enhancement of the natural features on the site such as trees, woodland and hedgerows
  • Recreational opportunities to cater for all ages, including play space;
  • Public rights of way on the site to be preserved and enhanced;
  • Biodiversity networks and habitats to be preserved and enhanced;
  • Provision of new vehicle access point from the A12, with safe access for cyclists and pedestrians;
  • Significant pedestrian and cycle accessibility throughout the site, with connections and improvements to networks beyond the site, including the station and town centre.

There is also a requirement on the developer to make contributions to some public services, including a cash contribution of over £330,000 to add more primary care floorspace at Saxmundham Surgery.

How and where the discussions are going

The discussions to date with Pigeon’s officers have been open and in a positive spirit, taking into account the different perspectives and interests.  We have in general felt that the exchanges have been valuable and that many of our points are taken on board – but of course Pigeon has its own interests as investor / developer.  Pigeon wishes to complete the Masterplan in the coming weeks, and then to hold a public exhibition in Saxmundham in June (date to be finalized) and at the same time to set up a website on the proposals, for those who wish to be informed and/or engage digitally. 

Pigeon are wishing to carry out the first stage of major development (once they have planning permission for it) on the service area and employment land to the west of the A12 bypass.  We understand that they have potential customers to occupy at least a good proportion of the new workspace.  This will mean building a new roundabout, plus pedestrian and cyclists’ crossing, across the A12, plus a spur road and second (smaller) roundabout to the east, into the future Garden Neighbourhood housing areas.  There will also need to be connectivity across the site (e.g. cycle paths) from the existing town to the new employment-related areas to the west, if and when built.

For the future development of the 800 homes, Pigeon indicate that they intend to choose specific builders to develop different areas and phases of housing, probably  around 150 to 250 homes at a time.  Pigeon would set the general terms and design framework within which the builders would be required to work.

The NP Steering Group considers that it is not yet able to give definitive views on proposals, since there needs to be more involvement of East Suffolk Council planners, who may have specific points from a planning perspective which need to be taken account of.