Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey criticised over response to closure of Woods Lane, Melton
PUBLISHED: 12:33 13 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:30 13 November 2017
A Suffolk MP has been accused of failing to support her constituents over a controversial road closure.
Therese Coffey, the MP for Suffolk Coastal, appeared on BBC Radio Suffolk this morning to discuss the closure of Woods Lane in Melton and respond to criticism she had not been helping to address the concerns.
The closure, which began last Monday, was initially scheduled to last around 16 weeks either side of Christmas as part of the work on Bloor Homes’ 180-home Longwood Fields development.
It has drawn fierce opposition from people living in Melton, Woodbridge and the wider area, many of whom claim it is causing major disruption to businesses and residents.
Dr Coffey has come under fire for her apparent lack of involvement in the issue.
Speaking to radio host Mark Murphy, Dr Coffey said the people raising such accusations were “talking absolute rubbish”.
She said she had followed-up on concerns raised with her by talking to Suffolk County Council and local councillors.
“At the end of the day my job is predominantly in Parliament, representing people, and to be working on parliamentary business,” she added.
“Local government deals with local matters on local issues.”
While Dr Coffey said she had worked to ensure traffic lights were reprogrammed, and would be writing to Suffolk Constabulary’s Chief Constable on traffic safety issues, she insisted that local councillors were the appropriate channel for dealing with the closure.
“I don’t determine local planning, nor do I determine local highways,” she added.
When Mr Murphy asked whether Dr Coffey should be “fighting for her constituents”, she again highlighted the role of local government.
“Don’t you think that’s what councillors do?” she asked.
Dr Coffey added: “The whole point of having local councillors is they are there representing local people with the local council.
“That’s what the issues have been about – the agreement of the road closure.
“Meanwhile, my job is to be in Parliament voting on things like the Finance Bill, which is where I was.”
Quizzed as to whether she thought she spent too much time in Parliament, she replied: “I think the role of Member of Parliament is to be in Parliament when Parliament is sitting and we are doing Parliamentary business.”
Some listeners reacted angrily to the comments.
She was accused of “deflecting” issues and “passing the buck”. Others claimed her comments came across as “arrogant” and “non-caring”.
One listener suggested Dr Coffey needed reminding it was her constituents that gave her the “privilege of being in Parliament”.
“I just cannot believe that interview,” the listener added. “She was arrogant, disinterested, couldn’t care less and was rude.”
One said: “I’ll never vote for her again.”
However, some listeners agreed with Dr Coffey, and suggested Mr Murphy should have had the “planners” on the show, as it was their responsibility.
Speaking to this newspaper after the interview, Dr Coffey said: “I reject the criticisms.
“I’m happy I’ve got on with the job of following up on the concerns of local residents, including a meeting with the county council’s deputy leader, to try and mitigate the impact of the closure.
“I raised the issue about assumptions made by council officers on what working hours would be deemed acceptable.
“There is an opportunity to change this for the second phase which could shorten the closure period and there are lessons to be learned for future development.
“Ultimately it is the county council that works with the builder on how to accommodate necessary infrastructure installations but I continue to ask detailed questions on behalf of constituents.”
Listen to radio interview on the BBC iPlayer.