Former news reader joins protest

PROTESTERS against a controversial Suffolk housing development are making visible efforts to prevent its construction. Villagers in Woolverstone, including former BBC newsman Laurie Mayer, are so concerned about proposals to build 325 homes at Shotley's HMS Ganges they have formed their own residents' association and posted protests across the village.

PROTESTERS against a controversial Suffolk housing development are making visible efforts to prevent its construction.

Villagers in Woolverstone, including former BBC newsman Laurie Mayer, are so concerned about proposals to build 325 homes at Shotley's HMS Ganges they have formed their own residents' association and posted protests across the village.

The application is the second by Haylink developers in two years – the last was refused because the 500 homes proposed seemed too vast.

But members of Woolverstone Residents' Association argue the scale of the current plan is still unacceptable as 150 homes have already been agreed at Shotley Marina.

They say the scale of housing and subsequent traffic will be just as severe as with the original plan.

Woolverstones' residents all live close to the B1456, which runs from Ipswich to Shotley, and are concerned at the predicted 60 per cent increase in traffic.

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Mr Mayer, former BBC news presenter and chairman of the association, said: "Woolverstone will bear the brunt of the huge projected increase in traffic.

"Putting an extra thousand cars a day on the main road from Shotley will destroy the quality of life in a village that the local authority has a statutory duty to preserve and enhance.

"Suffolk county council has already conceded that the B1456 was not designed to cope with the current volume of traffic, how on earth can it cope with another 60pc?"

The 58-year-old and his wife moved to Woolverstone at the end of last year because of its tranquillity. It is classed as a conservation area and Mr Mayer says this status adds weight to the associations' argument.

He is also concerned about the safety implications of increasing the flow of traffic along the road, particularly as Woolverstone's junction with Holbrook is already an accident black spot.

Mr Mayer added: "Suffolk county council have pointed out that this 'is already a location with a poor accident record where an increase in traffic and congestion is likely to result in drivers taking greater risks with a corresponding increase in accidents'."

It is not only residents in Woolverstone who are concerned about the development - previous proposals saw banners and posters go up in Shotley.

Michael Mitchell is one man who is furious at the plans. He lives opposite HMS Ganges on the main road and if plans get the go ahead a roundabout will be built outside his home.

He said: "It is going to be a huge problem. The traffic usage and the designated housing is going to be too much for the facilities in the area.

"They have reduced the number of houses from 500 to 325 but that doesn't take into account the ones already approved.

"There is no police station here and there is no plan for the school to be increased they have said this will come afterwards but that will be too late.

"The site does have to be developed but this is a huge thing at the end of a cul de sac."

Mr Mitchell is not alone in his concerns – Mr Mayer agrees that the dead end will pose access problems for emergency services.

He also believes Holbrook School is close to capacity and with no alternative schools on the Shotley peninsula their may be competition for school places.

The closest police station is in Capel St Mary and with the additional 1500-1800 people expected to move into the houses there is likely to be an increase in crime and accidents.

The residents' association are planning to form a petition and have contacted their MP Tim Yeo for support.

Residents have until September 29 to register their objections to the plan.

No-one from Haylink was available for comment.

What do you think? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Chronology of HMS Ganges:

1862: Shotley fort constructed.

1902: First Royal Navy training establishment building constructed on site.

1905: New shore establishment created and commissioned.

1906: Mast erected on site.

1915: Establishment bombed by German Zeppein.

1976: White ensign lowered for the first time on site.

1961: Eurosports village opens after a £5 million facelift.

1986: Police training centre opens.

1999: Police training centre closes.

2000: A group of former navy personnel launch a campaign to save the site. They hoped to see the site converted into a museum and sports and social centre.

2001: Haylink Ltd which is made up of the two main partners East London Estates Ltd and Galliard Homes hold a meeting in Shotley to see what people want at the site.

2003: Haylink submit a planning application to build 500 homes at the former naval site – it is rejected.

Source: BUJ Architects and Evening Star archives.

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