May 24 2013 Latest news:
BY RICHARD CORNWELL, Felixstowe editor
Friday, November 16, 2012
LEAVE our fields alone!
That was the emphatic message today from campaigners who have asked an independent inspector to reject proposals to build nearly 1,800 new homes which they claim would swamp the Felixstowe area.
But Suffolk Coastal officers will not settle for less – and have admitted they are talking about “at least 1,760 new homes” and following an early review of housing strategy “in the longer term, additional levels of housing in the Felixstowe Peninsula could be identified”.
Campaigners told the public inquiry into the Local Development Framework – the blueprint for the future of the district – that the main reason for building huge numbers of homes in the past had been the development and rapid growth of the Port of Felixstowe.
But although the port has promised 1,500 new jobs by the time both phases of its latest expansion are working to capacity, campaigners are doubtful the employment will be achieved – at least not for decades.
The groups believes the housing allocation for the area – and the district as a whole – is too big.
Ian Cowan, representing STAG (Save Trimley Against Growth), Save Felixstowe Countryside and both Trimley St Mary and Trimley St Martin parish councils, said Suffolk Coastal had used statistics spread over different timescales to produce favourable figures to justify the need to build the homes.
He said if “like for like” periods were compared, housing development in Felixstowe and the Trimleys was more than four times the council’s figures.
The council also expected only 620 direct new jobs at the port if throughput doubles, compared with the port estimate of 1,500.
“However, with increased mechanisation and more efficient working practices, recent port growth has required proportionately fewer workers, and this trend is expected to continue,” said Mr Cowan.
Suffolk Coastal planners say the council is seeking to regenerate Felixstowe and the extra homes were part of plans and work underway to address a number of “negative trends”, including relying on one major employer, a failing tourist resort, a fragile town centre and lack of affordable housing.
The council was committed to using as much brownfield land as possible – the former Deben High School is one of a number of sites under consideration – and an action plan would identify detailed land use.