Reydon Smere could be saved from housing development
- Credit: Picture: Nick Butcher
A controversial bid to build new homes on a beauty spot in Reydon looks set to be abandoned after a determined campaign to protect it from development.
The Waveney Pathfinder Project had identified land off Rissmere Lane East as the potential site for nine new houses for people in Easton Bavents whose properties are under threat of coastal erosion.
But strong fears were voiced that the construction of the homes would ruin the Reydon Smear – a popular area for walkers and wildlife, known locally as The Smere.
When the project's plans were first made public last year, it led to a Save the Smere campaign being formed by concerned local residents, who were keen to protect the beauty spot.
However, the Pathfinder project now says it will look at relocating people from Easton Bavents to multiple sites in Reydon rather than focusing on Rissmere Lane East – potentially saving The Smere from development.
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Robert Kelsey, a member of Save the Smere campaign, was delighted that the land might now be saved and praised the project team for its change in policy.
Mr Kelsey, an author who has lived in Reydon for four years, said: 'The fact pathfinder has agreed to look for multiple sites is a positive step.
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'It is quite clear that the desire to find one big site is an error and has caused unnecessary pain in Reydon
'We were never against helping the people of Easton Bavents. We just wanted the process to be fair by recognising that the people of Reydon have a right to a say and that The Smere was a spot worth protecting.
'The Smere is treated by the people of Reydon as their version of Southwold Common. I welcome the Pathfinder decision, but now it has to back it up with action.'
The £1.5m Waveney Pathfinder Project was launched in 2009 with government funding to tackle the problem of coastal erosion blighting people's lives in Easton Bavents and Corton.
John Perkins, secretary of the Southwold and Reydon Society, hailed the project's shift in position as a victory for people power.
He said: 'At long last there seems to be real progress in resolving the situation at Easton Bavents and local residents could be on the verge of a momentous victory. As things stand, it looks as if they have won their fight.
'They (the Pathfinder project) now seem to accept that trying to re-locate all the houses threatened by coastal erosion onto one plot of much-loved greenbelt land in Reydon Smear is perhaps not the best solution.
'Instead they have promised to look at more smaller sites.'
Although Mr Perkins was pleased the Pathfinder project was taking residents' views on board, he said the process should have started much earlier.
His comments follow strong criticisms made by villagers in Reydon last summer that the public consultation over the homes plan was not accessible enough for the public.
The consultation process was then extended by several weeks by pathfinder, which is implemented by Waveney District Council
Mr Perkins said: 'They finally seem to be listening to the local community and making some important decisions. They are also committed to consulting with the people of Reydon before making any final decision, which is refreshing because it was the botched consultation on this project last August that sparked the whole controversy.
'The tragedy is this was not done at the start of the project back in 2009. Instead it has been a last minute rush to find a resolution before the project expires this September.'
The change of policy was made at a meeting of the pathfinder board at Southwold Town Hall.
As well as agreeing to look at multiple sites for the homes, the project has recommended that only permanent buildings at erosion-threatened Easton Bavents will be able to receive help to re-locate and that anyone who purchased property after 1998 – when the problems were well known – will receive a different level of assistance.
A pathfinder spokesman told The Journal: 'A very positive meeting of the Waveney Pathfinder Project Board at Southwold Town Hall saw a number of decisions made regarding the proposed relocation of the properties at Easton Bavents threatened by coastal erosion. Pathfinder will now consider, within budget and usual planning constraints, the potential for multiple sites for relocation, as well as a single site.
'Important progress has been made to ensure that each homeowner's case for relocation is addressed on its merits.
He added: 'All these decisions were taken in the interest of balancing the reasonable needs of the homeowners with the concerns of Reydon residents about a blanket approach to the issue, and we are delighted that progress is now being made on all sides.'