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Dedham Vale AONB & Stour Valley Project

Dedham Vale AONB & Stour Valley Project

Monthly Update : May 2017 (pdf)


March 2017

The Dedham Vale Society will be 80 next year but there has never been a time when it has been needed more. 
The relaxation of planning laws and pressure on local authorities to find sites for development is resulting in a multitude of proposals from landowners and developers, many of which are wholly inappropriate if we want to keep this most beautiful countryside intact.  A glance at any local authority website planning department “call for sites” will show where development may happen.

The Society is alert to these threats but we sometimes miss things and so any alerts by members are much appreciated.  Please contact our planning Secretaries, David Eking for Suffolk and Roger Drury for Essex in the first instance.

We have had a number of successes recently, notably at Bures, where a proposal which would have put paid to any extension of our AONB was unanimously rejected by the Braintree District Council Planning Sub-Committee just before Christmas. The situation at East Bergholt is also encouraging.  In Lamarsh a proposal by Network Rail to close a much loved pedestrian level crossing has been withdrawn after strong objections.

It would be foolish to claim that the Society achieves these results on its own.  We work with other amenity societies, parish and district councils and the Dedham Vale AONB & Stour Valley Project as well as individual landowners and other concerned bodies.

Sometimes we involve our Members of Parliament and we have to thank Bernard Jenkin MP who, with James Cleverly, MP for Braintree and James Cartlidge, MP for South Suffolk, went to see the Minister responsible for AONBs, Lord Gardiner, to ask if progress on obtaining AONB status for the Dedham Vale extension could be speeded up. Sadly, the answer was No.  We are still in the queue and it will take some years, but at least they tried and we will continue to campaign for recognition as soon as possible.

Robert Erith, President, Dedham Vale Society

Press Release 21 October 2016

The team behind an on-going application to extend the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) has received a welcome boost.

Two local MPs, Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) and James Cartlidge (South Suffolk) have expressed their support for the project – and agreed to take action!

They plan to seek the backing of other MPs representing affected constituencies and together lobby the new minister responsible for all landscape issues, Lord Gardiner of Kimble.The MPs’ priority at this stage will be to urge the Minister to increase the resources assigned to the assessment of AONB extension applications. There are currently only two people in the whole country employed (by Natural England) to work on AONB boundary variations.

The Dedham Vale Society is confident its application would be one of the first to progress, thanks to the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Partnership having already instructed two landscape-consultant-led studies which were carried out last July (full details below).

The MPs agreed to help out at a meeting on the 16th September, organised by the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Partnership, and attended by, among others, the President of the Dedham Vale Society, Robert Erith.

Bernard Jenkin MP says “I fully support the proposals to extend the AONB along the Stour.  The Dedham Vale AONB is one of the finest landscapes in England.  This is Constable Country, an area which attracts millions of pounds through tourism, but this is about more than that.  This is about preserving the heritage of our county and our country, and I will be working with other local MPs to press the Government to ensure Natural England have the resources to consider this application thoroughly.” 

Robert Erith, President of the Dedham Vale Society, says “Now that planning laws have been relaxed, every District Council is looking for more land on which to build housing. However, it is essential that sensitive areas of exceptional natural beauty and priceless heritage are preserved for future generations to enjoy.  That is why we seek to extend the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty up river along the Stour valley from its present boundary.   We are encouraged that the recent study by Alison Farmer has confirmed that most of the area concerned is likely to meet the demanding criteria to attract this status. We urge those responsible to allocate additional resources to speed up this work.”

Simon Amstutz, manager of the Dedham Vale AONB and the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONBs, says “AONBs are national assets that can support economic recovery and the designation ensures that these special places can contribute to society for us and future generations.”

A map of the proposed extension can be found on the AONB’s website

Dedham Vale Society want dark sky status for Constable Country
Gazette - 19 May 2016

ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners are bidding to protect their pitch black nights by chasing official dark sky status.

The Dedham Vale Society, a group set up to protect the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Constable Country, believe they have skies clear enough to be able to see the Milky Way, but are chasing official accreditation to protect against the threat of prospective light-emitting development.

The group are working with expert astronomer Bob Mizon in their bid to achieve the protective status, and he believes they stand a fighting chance.

n order to put together a successful bid, the Dedham Vale Society needs individuals and organisations to carry out dark-sky readings and complete a full lighting audit.

Chairman Charles Clover is urging volunteers to come forward and get involved in the process, which could take up to two years.

Kate Warburton

Click to view full article in Gazette 19 May 2016

East Bergholt Parish Council is asking for a judge to review legality of 144 home planning application
EADT - 23 April 2016

A parish council in the heart of Constable Country which disagreed with a planning decision made by Babergh District Council is asking for a judge to intervene.

Permission was granted for 144 homes to be built on land next to Moores Lane in East Bergholt last month by the district council’s planning committee despite opposition from within the community.

A short statement on the website of East Bergholt Parish Council said: “After careful consideration the parish council has decided to take the planning applications on Moores Lane and Hadleigh Road to judicial review. Babergh’s unwillingness to listen to the views of the people of East Bergholt left us with no alternative."

A judicial review does not look at whether the decision reached was right or wrong, just whether the process used in making that decision followed the correct procedures. If it is found the decision was not reached lawfully the ruling could be declared invalid.

EADT 24 April 2016
Click to view EADT 23 April 2016

Honorary Secretary

New Dedham Vale Society secretary Kate Warburton joins the fight to save our green and pleasant land

Gazette News 10 February 2016

Click to read Wendy Brading's interview with Kate Warburton, about her new role as Secretary of the Dedham Vale Society.

Kate Warburton

The Dedham Vale Society has a new Honorary Secretary.

Kate Warburton, from Langham, is taking over from Sarah Carr, who has been in the role for an impressive 25 years!

Kate is following in the footsteps of her late father, Wilf Tolhurst, who was Chairman of the Society between 1999 and 2008.

Kate says: “I am really excited to be part of a passionate team who are committed to preserving the Vale. In a world that is full of fast paced change and development it seems more important than ever to protect this area of outstanding natural beauty”

Welcome Kate!

Littlegarth School Planning

A prime role of the Society is to protect the Vale and, indeed, our villages from inappropriate development. However, this can lead tothe Society being perceived to be a negative organisation always objecting to this or that planning application.
The recent application for a major project at the Littlegarth School, sited as it is in the heart of the Vale, offers an excellent example of what can be achieved given a little thought and goodwill. After lengthy discussions with the Borough Council and local residents, the development planned harmoniously integrates into the countryside.

The planned buildings are hidden behind existing properties, are inset into the hillside and screened by extensive planting of trees and hedges. The overall impact on the Vale is minimal and in fact the existing and planned screening generally enhances the views – an example of thoughtful design.

The Vale cannot be set in aspic, there must be some development to meet with the demands of our lives to-day, but this can be achieved where there is a recognition of the importance of our countryside.

Within our villages achieving a balance between the aspirations of an individual and the overall appearance of the “street scene” of a village is more difficult to achieve.

Header Premises Littlegarth School, Horkesley, Park Road, Great Horkesley CO6 4JR - Application No: 151696
Demolition of existing “Art Block Building” and erection of part two-storey, part single-storey building to provide six teaching classrooms, library, music and drama facilities and extension to existing car park.

Planning – Prior Notification

The Government appears to continue to tinker with the planning system in order to facilitate rapid planning approval and thereby stimulate economic growth.

One of the latest schemes is called Prior Notification whereby, if an applicant gets the agreement of his two adjacent neighbours to his proposed development, an application will be fast tracked without reference to others who may be affected. The aim is to limit objections and thus speed up the approval process.

We have only seen two such applications, both in Little Horkesley, where the neighbours most affected, those living opposite, were not consulted and thereby denied a voice.  DVS objected to both applications which were quickly refused, we think, by virtue of being in the Dedham Vale AONB.

If you hear of any Prior Notification applications it would be use if you could advise us so we can track such applications and build a database on where they are being used and how successful they are.

Suffolk & Essex Gliding Club

The battle of Wormingford Airfield has preoccupied the population in the west of the Dedham Vale for decades. The problem is not with the gliders, whose twisting and soaring make a graceful addition to a summer sky, but how to get them to height. They are limited to four days/year when they can be towed by tug planes but for the rest of the year have to rely on ground winch launches.

The Suffolk & Essex Gliding Club have over the last few months lodged three applications to operate Touring Motor Gliders (TMGs) – these have a small internal combustion engine which allow them to take off and move across the countryside under their own power.

Those of us who seek the peace and tranquillity of the countryside face the prospect of these machines causing noise and disruption to a wide area of the Dedham Vale.

DVS have joined with over 200 individuals, amenity groups and parish councils in objecting to this unwarranted disruption of the Vale by a few pursuing their own interests.

This is a good example of DVS taking an interest in activities outside the Vale which can have an adverse impact in the AONB.

Touring Motor Glider

Click to view details of the current Application - No 150972

Save Our Verges

Every Spring one of the joys of the Dedham Vale is the profusion of flowers in our verges which are a vitally important in the biodiversity of the countryside. Come May/June our two County Councils then vandalise the countryside by mowing our verges thus removing any prospect of flowers later in the season and damaging this much needed diversity.

The Councils claim to do this for reasons of road safety but surely reduced lines of sight forces vehicles to slow down and thereby enhances road safety. The only justifiable argument is that at junctions visibility should be improved by mowing – perhaps parish councils could be asked for their input given their local knowledge.

However, there is a national campaign to protect verges where you can register your view –

Road Verge Campaign

Fight against plan for 144 homes in Constable Country is ‘gathering momentum’ as 100 protest signs are put up

Ipswich Star July 2015

See more about these proposals on the Campaigns page

Campaigners opposed to proposals to build almost 150 homes in the Suffolk countryside immortalised by John Constable believe their fight is “gathering momentum”.

Around 100 objection placards have been put up around East Bergholt in protest to the proposed development, which would bring a mix of 50 affordable homes and 94 town houses and apartments to the outskirts of the village where the landscape painter was born and raised.

Peter Dent, chairman of Action East Bergholt, said in January the campaign group is determined to protect the artist’s legacy.

Since then, he said opposition has grown. Earlier this month, more than 300 people “packed out” a village meeting – one of the biggest attended in living memory, Mr Dent said.

For further information visit:
Action East Bergholt

A Flag Flies on the Tower of St Mary's Church Langham
as the Dedham Vale Society's Memorial to Wilf Tolhurst

It has taken more than 5½ years, but the Dedham Vale Society has finally succeeded in erecting a flagpole on the tower of St. Mary’s Church, Langham, in memory of our late chairman, Wilf Tolhurst. 

The flag flying is the Cross of St. George with the emblem of Chelmsford Diocese.    It was an epic struggle, but we got there in the end! 

A dedication ceremony will take place at the end of September.

The flag was photographed flying on Waterloo Day!

Memorial Flag

Memorial Flag at Langham Church
Gazette 25 June 2015
Click to view the news article

Dedham Vale Society's Summer Party 2015

Two hundred guests enjoyed the 2015 summer party on 19th June in the gorgeous garden of Liz and Bill Durlacher at Whalebone House, Langham.

The weather was fine, the wine and canapes were delicious, conversation flowed and everyone had a great evening.

Click to view the photographs of the party

Summer Party 2015

Horkesley Park: Our battle is over

Why the scheme was turned down

The benefits of Horkesley Park would not outweigh the damage it would cause, an inspector found. Despite new jobs and a boost to the local economy, the planning inspector, who led a four day inquiry into the plans, felt the scheme would harm the Stour Valley. Communities secretary Eric Pickles backed the inspector on every single point raised in the report. It considered three main points: whether it was in a sustainable location, the impact on its surroundings, whether there were any planning considerations which needed to be taken into account.

  • For & Against
  • Family firm gives up on Stour Valley Visitor Centre scheme after Pickles rejects appeal
  • Timeline for Horkesley Park plan

Click to view the full article (pdf 709Kb)

Gazette - 18 April 2014 (pdf 709Kb)

Horkesley Park: The Appeal Decision

The Dedham Vale Society is delighted to confirm that the Inspector has decided to dismiss the appeal against the decision of the Colchester Borough Council to refuse permission for the Horkesley Park development and the Secretary of State has upheld the Inspector’s decision. A copy of the decision can be viewed (pdf 1Mb).

It is to be hoped that after many years of opposition this ill-conceived development has finally been laid to rest.

Wherstead: New plans submitted to Babergh District Council for wind turbine near Jimmy’s Farm

Plans for a wind turbine near Jimmy’s Farm have been registered with Babergh District Council.  It comes just a few months after the same company wanting to build the structure withdrew plans for another turbine near Belstead.

Partnerships for Renewables (PfR) want to build the turbine on land at Pannington Farm in Wherstead. Jerry Sturman, Regional Manager at PfR, said: “We have now completed all the environmental and technical studies and extensive pre-application consultation, which have confirmed our belief that the site is an appropriate one for wind energy development.

“We believe the land is suitable for a single turbine which will stand at a maximum tip height of 130 meters and could generate up to 5.4 gigawatt hours (GWh) of green electricity every year – enough to power approximately 1,280 homes.

Stop Ipswich Turbines, a group which campaigned against the earlier two-turbine plan, have previously said they would also oppose the construction of a single turbine at Pannington Farm.

Click to view the full article at EADT website

Wind Turbine

East Anglian Daily Times – Friday 20 December 2013

Dr Ronald Blythe to be Patron of the Dedham Vale Society

The Dedham Vale Society is delighted that the distinguished author and countryman Dr Ronald Blythe has agreed to be its first Patron.

Ronnie Blythe has had a long and illustrious career as a writer and critic on East Anglian country life and has for many years lived at Wormingford in the Stour valley, part of the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty from which he draws inspiration for his unique and lyrical interpretations of the English countryside.  

As guest speaker at the Society’s annual lecture in the Dedham Assembly Rooms on Monday, 25th November, he introduced and showed a film he produced forty years ago about the life and work of the great painter John Constable RA.

Ronnie made his name with Akenfield:  Portrait of an English village (1969), an evocative book about agricultural life in Suffolk from the turn of the last Century to 1966.  He has since written novels and short stories and is the author of the much-loved Wormingford trilogy which beautifully observes the changing East Anglian scene.

In 2006 he was awarded the prestigious Benson Medal by the Royal Society for Literature in recognition of a lifetime’s achievement.
He is also President of the John Clare Society and of the Francis Kilvert Society and is a lay reader in the Church of England.  

The Dedham Vale Society was founded in 1938 by Sir Alfred Munnings PRA and Raymond Erith RA.  It exists to protect the peace and tranquillity of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, known universally as Constable Country.

For seventy five years the Society has worked to resist the excesses of developers, the utilities and individuals who would seek to damage the world-famous fragile landscape.  Despite occasional setbacks, it has been largely successful in preserving a countryside which would be easily recognisable by John Constable today.


Suffolk/Essex pylon plan put on hold by National Grid

BBC News Suffolk: 15 November 2013

Campaigners have welcomed National Grid's decision to put its plan for new electricity pylons on the Suffolk/Essex border on hold.

The company planned to build a new 400,000 volt connection covering 17 miles (28 km) by 2017.  It said the connection, which would have included five miles (8 km) underground, would not be needed until the early 2020s now.

The proposed connection would replace the existing, smaller pylons between Bramford near Ipswich and Twinstead in Essex.

BBC 15 November 2013

Click to view full article on BBC News Suffolk

Campaigners in the Stour Valley and Dedham Vale area on the Essex/Suffolk border wanted the connection to be completely underground.

John Foster, from the Essex & Suffolk Coalition of Amenity Groups, said: "We're pleased and it indicates the process was premature and the case was not properly supported.  It leaves the overall issue of how the grid will be developed in this beautiful countryside unresolved.  It's uncertain what will be required in the future in terms of power supply, so we will continue to campaign to ensure power lines can be put underground as much as possible."

Bramford-Twinstead connection project
to be put temporarily on hold until later date

National Grid Press Release November 2013

A proposed 400,000 volt electricity connection between Bramford, near Ipswich, and Twinstead in Essex is now needed later than originally planned, according to National Grid, following updated information from power generation companies.

National Grid has published a report – the Bramford-Twinstead Need Case 2013 - which explains the changes to proposed power generation projects. This can be found on the project website at:

Click to view the full press release (pdf 57Kb)

Click to view press coverage and further details on our Campaign page

Constable country acres are sold

The National Trust has reveled it could not afford the £1.75million price tag for 231 acreas of prime Counstable Country.

The land at Hall Farm in Stratfors St Mary has been sold a month after it went on the market.
Click to view the full article (pdf 138Kb)

Constable Land Sold
Constable country on the market for 1.7m
Essex County Standard - 4 October 2013 (pdf 282Kb)

Campaigners have called for the National Trust to buy 231 acres of land in Constable Country on sale for £1.75million.

The land, owned by Hall Farm, in Stratford St Mary, features in many of John Constable’s works, including one of his most famous, the Dedham Vale.

Robert Erith, president of the Dedham vale Society, said he had already been in contact with the National Trust it inform it the land is up for sale. “Whether they have the budget or so forth, I don’t know,”

Click to view the full article (pdf 282Kb)

Essex County Standard

Dedham gearing up for new noise fight

Fears over plans for more flights overhead

The fight to protect the peace and tranquility of Dedham Vale seems to be a constant one. Last week, a consultation was launched to assess the impact of changes to flight paths into London City and London Biggin Hill airports.

President of the Dedham Vale Society, Robert Erith, said this new consultation could be the beginning of a new battle

Click to view the full article (pdf 446Kb)

Essex County Standard

Flight paths : 168 extra flights a week forecast over Dedham
Essex County Standard - 18 October 2013 (pdf 240Kb)

Noisy changes are in the air for tranquil Dedham

A consultation has been launched to assess the impact changes to London City and London Biggin Hill arrivals will have on north Essex. The proposed flight path changes would see traffic for the airports cross the Dedham Vale area of outstanding natural beauty. There wuld be an extra two flights per hour in the daytime - the equivalent to 168 extra flights a week.

For more information and to have your say, visit

Click to view the full article (pdf 240Kb)

Essex County Standard

Blood, sweat and tears do not matter - Dedham does

There are few more beautiful villages in the country thaen Dedham. Nestled on the banks of the River Stour, the village’s Royal Square is lined with historic, characterful houses punctuated by ancient inns and tea rooms. But the village has not remained frozen in time by accident. It has taken blood, sweat and tears to preserve it – and the fight is not over yet.

“Dedham has always had its share of well-connected people determined to preserve it,” said Charles Clover, the Dedham Vale Society’s current chairman. “People like Alfred Munnings and Raymond Erith, the great classic architect, who rebuilt Downing Street. That is why Dedham is as it is.”

The challenge now facing Dedham is to retain its character while remaining sustainable.
For now, the village is thriving. It has two pubs, three quality restaurants, a pharmacy, shops, and arts centre and tea rooms.

Battles endure. Villagers are still trying to get the flight path to Stansted Airport moved away from Dedham and the area of outstanding natural beauty. And the fight to contain development is fought on a near daily basis.

Mr Clover said:“Everyone forgets the enormous amount of time people have volunteered to preserve the environment.“Think how many years of pro bono good work has gone into it. But the reward is around you.”

Essex County Standard

Dedham Vale AONB - Proposed extension
At its meeting in November 2009, the Dedham Vale AONB & Stour Valley Project Partnership resolved to begin the work of seeking to extend the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) West and North towards Sudbury. Natural England, the body charged with making this designation has been informed and has requested the Project to undertake a Feasibility Study. No funds are available for this work from local authorities so Essex University has been approached and it is hoped that a team can be assembled to work with the Project over the next few months.

The process of achieving AONB status is far from simple and there are already some 40 applications ahead of us for consideration. Important criteria will be to discern what improvements in the landscape have occurred since 1992 when the Countryside Commission rejected the Bures area for this designation. In fact, thanks to work by the Project and schemes such as Countryside Stewardship, much work has been undertaken by landowners such as hedge planting, undergrounding of overhead wires and creation of arable field margins, ponds and woodland and this, amongst other aspects, will need to be fully evaluated by the Feasibility Study.

Robert Erith, President, 29th July 2010