Hepworth Parish Council Objection to Latest Shepherds Grove Development Proposal


This is a HOLDING OBJECTION due to the significant quantity of material presented by the developer that will require further consideration and discussion at a public meeting, yet to be organised by the Parish Council to inform its final response. In its current speculative format, Hepworth Parish Council strongly object to parts of the application on the basis that the proposed development appears inappropriate for the location, its economic benefits are unproven and the detailed impacts on the local community remain unclear.


In light of the volume of documents presented for what is supposed to be an outline planning application, the Parish Council needs further time to digest this material and to discuss it with the local community at a specific public meeting that will be organised in September. Considering the 4 years taken to determine the Ikea planning application, used as a precedent in the Planning Statement, it is considered that more time to consult with the local community is an appropriate request. The current consultation period is set to end on 10 September. It is requested that Hepworth Parish Council have an extension until 5 October; this will allow a public meeting to be held in September and a final Parish Council consultation response to be agreed at the planned 28 September full Hepworth Parish Council meeting.


The Planning Statement in paras 5.40 and 5.44 reference the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2021. How does this development (and that of Copart) “..improve the economic, social and environmental conditions of the area”? As referenced elsewhere in the Planning Statement, unemployment is lower in West Suffolk than in other parts of the East of England. The NPPF also indicates that development should be sympathetic to local character, history, including built environment and landscape setting. However as shown below this is simply not the case with a development this large.


The Planning Statement makes numerous references to the 2019 Shepherds Grove Masterplan. However, the West Suffolk Council decision notice adopting this Masterplan clearly shows that the Masterplan was adopted on 16 October 2019 as informal planning guidance for a period of 3 years. It is therefore expired and should be given little or no weight in any determination of the application.


The Community Consultation document fails to reflect that the main public engagement on 27 June was centred around 4 boards and did not cover the detailed information that this application has provided. It is also misleading to state that the whole community were invited (para 2.15 of the Planning Statement) when notices were only delivered within a 500m radius of the site and hence missed many Hepworth residents. The Parish Council made sure that everyone was aware of the consultation by delivering flyers for the public meeting to all households.


The Planning Statement para 5.15 references the expired Masterplan “. proposals are permittable subject to space requirements, parking, access, landscaping and general environmental considerations”. The height of the buildings proposed by this application, types of material used in construction and the additional traffic generated are inconsistent with the parameters set out in RV 4.


While a traffic assessment has been referenced in the planning statement, this remains speculative, generated around bland assumptions. It does not provide robust evidence as to the impact of the development on local traffic nor does it fully quantify the associated impact. Traffic volumes associated with the site as set out in the Traffic and Noise Assessment documents submitted by the developers, indicates that the development proposed by Equation will generate anywhere between 2,500 and 4,500 additional vehicle movements per day – including significant HGV movements between 2300 and 0700 hrs. The increased traffic is therefore likely to have a significant impact upon the road network, The Street in Hepworth, and adversely affect the residential amenity of those living closest to the development. This Traffic Assessment must also be considered alongside the Jaynic proposals for the adjoining site – we believe the corresponding Jaynic Traffic Assessment to be deeply flawed as it relies upon generic TRICS data and does not reflect the Copart business model.


The economic benefits and noise assessment reports are speculative based upon generic assumptions for the proposed classes of use. They do not provide any strong evidence of what the economic benefit will be to the local community nor what potential noise impact there will be. These issues need to be clarified by understanding what sort of businesses will be using the buildings before any permission is granted for reserved matters. The Economic Benefits document highlights the comparatively low unemployment rates in West Suffolk when compared to the rest of the East of England. We would therefore contend that potential employees (up to 2,500) will be drawn from a much larger geographic area and any economic benefits to West Suffolk residents correspondingly reduced.


The design and access document shows clearly that the current context is set around largely open fields that do not draw notice from surrounding views. The proposed buildings of up to 21m high represent a significant departure from the current context and will become the main feature, almost overbearing feature, of the countryside when viewed from almost any direction. The proposed pedestrian access is some distance away from existing bus stops. There does not appear to be any provision for footpaths between the bus stop and the site. The sheer size of the proposed buildings and colours of materials used are inconsistent with the rural context of the site – the proposed development is therefore inconsistent with the principles set out in West Suffolk Council Rural Vision 4 and Para 130 c) of The National Planning Policy Framework.


The Illustrative Landscaping Masterplan seems to suggest that landscaping has been added at the end of the design process and not integrated within it. Para 5.37 of the Planning Statement references the expired Shepherds Grove Master Plan which states the area will be well screened. How can this be achieved if the buildings are 21m?


The Planning Statement cites the precedence of the previously approved Ikea planning application. While this is similar in floor space, the operation of the facility would have been completely different in that Ikea was to be the sole user and as part of the planning approval conditions were placed to guard against unsociable hours activity. If the Equation application is ultimately minded to be approved, the Parish Council would want to see similar safeguarding conditions to preserve the current environmental situation, specifically ‘no external machinery to be operated, no outside work carried out and no deliveries taken or dispatched between the hours of 2200hrs and 0600 unless otherwise agreed in writing with the LPA’.


There is significant concern of the potential cumulative impact of this application and the existing Jaynic/Copart hybrid application already being consulted upon. Collectively they have the potential to significantly change the nature of the local area and, more significantly, compound the pre-existing traffic concerns.


This is a speculative application that does not provide robust evidence to support key aspects of the proposed development such as the economic benefits, noise mitigation and traffic impact. The fact that the application seeks approval for almost 115,000 square feet of floor space without defining the final use means that the local community implications cannot be fully understood.

This response was sent to West Suffolk Council Planning on 1 September 2023 and can be seen via the West Suffolk planning portal.