Council should not pass up a chance to help our library

Felixstowe Library

Felixstowe Library - Credit: Archant

One of the big advantages of the arrival of new housing is the ability of councils to secure “planning gains” for the community forced to watch as its green fields are concreted over.

In exchange for the vast profits they will make, developers are bound by legal agreements to make the area more pleasant – and ensure councils (and their existing taxpayers) do not have to pay for some necessities.

New open space and playparks, public footpath improvements, bus stops, new schools or contributions to provide more school places for the children who will live in the homes, are all part and parcel of those agreements.

Affordable homes, too – Suffolk Coastal insists on one-in-three, though these days backs down all-too-easily when challenged later, or asks for cash to build homes elsewhere if a developer doesn’t want them on the nice new estate of four and five-bed homes.

There has been a bit of a furore this week at McCarthy and Stone’s offer of £200,000 for off-site affordable housing. That sum is supposed to pay for 15 homes – the council will be hard pushed to find anyone willing to build them for £13,000 each.

A new item which has appeared on the “planning gain” list is a contribution towards extra library facilities.

Councillors were asked to approve 190 homes at Walton Green South, Felixstowe. The county council said Trinity College, Cambridge, should contribute £84,240 towards library facilities for the increasing population.

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Sadly Suffolk Coastal said “it is not felt that there is appropriate justification” for a contribution.

So more than 500 people will live in these properties and will expect access to books, CDs, DVDs, computers and activities at Felixstowe Library and the chance to get some extra cash towards these facilities is being rejected.

You would think the council should be trying to get all it can for its communities in these hard times – after all, the houses will be built whatever happens and still make plenty of profit.