Behind the gates

EXCLUSIVE enclaves inhabited by the rich and famous, patrolled by bodyguards and CCTV cameras, are usually the places where you find “gated” communities - not in Suffolk.

By Richard Cornwell

EXCLUSIVE enclaves inhabited by the rich and famous, patrolled by bodyguards and CCTV cameras, are usually the places where you find “gated” communities - not in Suffolk.

Felixstowe editor RICHARD CORNWELL looks at a trend which could change the face of our county.

IT sounds like somewhere amid the star-spangled villas of Florida or Beverly Hills, LA - film stars and rock icons trying to hide from their adoring fans or stalkers and ensure a little a privacy.

But “gated” communities - collections of homes protected by electronically-operated steel gates - are a growing feature of life in this country.

They may be appropriate in some towns and big cities, but whether they are in the idyllic and peaceful Suffolk countryside is open to question.

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Traditionally, our villages have been close-knit communities, where people socialise, know their neighbours, look-out for each other, and often live most of their lives.

But this is being constantly eroded.

Today many of them are dormitory villages - their lifeblood has gone. Post offices, shops and pubs are closing, and businesses are few and far between.

They are inhabited by commuters - often outsiders - who leave them dead as doornails by day, returning at night to close their doors and curtains, not entering into the life of the community.

While actual crime may be low, the fear is often great, and any security measure which adds a little more protection, deters burglars and other unwanted visitors, is likely to find favour with those who want to live in our villages but not be a part of them.

Proposals for a gated community at Kirton certainly roused the hackles - with parish councillors saying the move was “not favoured, appearing exclusive and inappropriate”.

Even Suffolk Coastal's deputy leader Andy Smith - responsible for planning matters - agreed wholeheartedly and questioned senior officers on whether it should be allowed.

Sadly, the planning officers did not agree. Their excuse that the Suffolk countryside already has lots of gates - across fields entrances, farmyards and farmhouses - is nonsense.

Suffolk's villages are not like the world of JG Ballard's futuristic novels where the characters often live in gated communities, set apart from the rough, real world in a closeted utopia.

Suffolk's rural areas are places where you can walk freely through the streets, ancient lanes and closes of new developments - which you will not be able to do if they are gated.

They are places people mingle in the village hall at whist drives and table top sales and barn dances. Where the flower show thrives, the pub is the place to congregate, the fields are rich with crops, and the parish council keeps a careful watch, ensuring the village does not die, trying to keep a delicate balance between moving forward without horrendous change that harms a precious way of life.

Gated communities are a step in the wrong direction - people may feel safer in their homes but will feel less a part of the community in which they choose to have them.

What do you think of gated communities? Are you concerned that we will one day all live behind bars? What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

second story:

KIRTON'S “gated” community is to be built on land known as The Maltings.

Councillors have agreed Meob Holdings can build three five-bed detached homes and two semis, one a three-bed social housing property and the other four-bed, on the 2.2 acre site off Trimley Road.

As well as being disturbed by the prospect of gates, parish councillors are worried about their positioning - saying they must be far enough back to prevent traffic queues on the road while people trying to open them or go in and out.

There was uproar last year when the previous owners of the site ripped up trees and destroyed unique, historic world war two military buildings in the garden. Suffolk Coastal eventually acted to place a tree preservation order on the trees around the boundary.

The biggest concerns over the new development next to the grade two listed Georgian Maltings house is whether the land is contaminated by asbestos or unexploded munitions.

Senior planning officer Bob Chamberlain said the previous owner's pre-emptive clearance work had removed anti-aircraft gun emplacements and a battery observation post.

He said before work started on the archaeologists would carry out a dig and survey to map and record the war-time buildings.

Lizzy Last, 16, of Falkenham Road, Kirton, said: “Being in a village is about everyone being together - I don't think it would be right to live behind gates because you would feel excluded.”

Tom Watts, 13, of Kirton, a student at Orwell High, said: “I wouldn't want to live there. My uncle lives behind gates in Ipswich and you cannot just go in there - it's very difficult if he is out when you go to visit.”

Luke Stewart, 13, of Kirton, a student at Orwell High, said: “I think it would be all right and you would get used to living there. It would certainly feel safer.”

Harry Page, on holiday from Ripon visiting friends in the village, said: “I would definitely not want to live behind gates. You would not feel part of the village and the community.”

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