Greenest county or just a slogan?

CREATING the greenest county sounds like a great campaign for staff at Endeavour House to aim for.But as the council's effort was launched at the Suffolk Show yesterday I couldn't help wondering whether there was anything concrete happening - or is the whole thing just a nice trendy idea kept flying by tonnes of hot air?I suppose it must be important to get a wide group of people together to talk about saving the environment from as diverse backgrounds as Adnams brewery and the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

CREATING the greenest county sounds like a great campaign for staff at Endeavour House to aim for.

But as the council's effort was launched at the Suffolk Show yesterday I couldn't help wondering whether there was anything concrete happening - or is the whole thing just a nice trendy idea kept flying by tonnes of hot air?

I suppose it must be important to get a wide group of people together to talk about saving the environment from as diverse backgrounds as Adnams brewery and the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. But talk itself isn't going to change anything - and with the financial constraints facing the council is Suffolk really going to get any greener in future?

As a result of council cutbacks earlier this year, household waste sites have cut back on the items they can collect - you can no longer leave unwanted paint there. What are we supposed to do with unwanted paint in Suffolk's greenest county? Some of it might be able to turn the landscape a vivid shade of lime, but I'm sure that's not really what the council had in mind!


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You can't swan around telling everyone you want to have the greenest county while cutting environmental schemes every time you feel the pinch. If it can't afford to be green the council should be honest about the situation.

Also councils could make life much easier for people who want to go green - but again that would cost money which they don't have. Within Ipswich it would make sense to improve life for cyclists and encourage more people living in the town to get on two wheels for journeys within the borough.

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The problem is that cyclists have to share roads with cars, buses and lorries - and that can put off those just starting to get on their bikes.

The other day I cycled down Handford Road, and since the shared space scheme it has become much more cycle-friendly. A few more roads given this treatment would help encourage more people on to their bikes - but that cost a substantial amount of money and it is difficult to imagine the county dipping into its pockets.

Most people are now aware of environmental issues and it is fair to say that the vast majority of that majority want to help make Suffolk a cleaner and greener place.

I'm sure most residents of the county would love this to be greenest county in the country . . . but the fact is that takes actions, not just words.

And we have yet to see those actions moving up a gear.

ALONG with many others from this part of the world, I made the sometimes difficult trip to London at the weekend, braving the bus link between Colchester and Witham because of engineering work on the line.

Over the last few months it has sometimes felt as the rail authorities didn't want us to use their services on Saturdays or Sundays - there have been many weekend closures to allow engineering work.

The situation on the line has been much worse than it has been for many years, making it very difficult for families who want to take youngsters out for a weekend treat.

It's difficult to be too critical because we all want our rail link to the capital to be safe and reliable and we don't want the track to be left to crumble but we don't want to be personally inconvenienced either.

But why do the rail companies make it so difficult for those of us at weekends who don't have to travel? Are they really only interested in their captive market?

Talking to rail insiders the answer is that at weekends the amount of passengers is always less than during the week therefore fewer people are inconvenienced by being bussed part of the way.

That's all very well - but why are there so many weekends with disruption at the moment? I'm told that's a legacy of under-investment during the last days of British Rail and the Railtrack years.

From the late 1980s until the Hatfield disaster in 2000 the companies seemed to adopt an attitude of “If it ain't broke don't fix it” approach to rail maintenance.

That might be okay for a year or two, but over more than a decade that can mean hundreds of little faults build up which eventually all have to be addressed at the same time.

One rail official told me: “Part of the problem now is that people don't expect there to be disruption during the weekends because for years, engineers weren't doing that much. Now issues are being addressed and there are a lot of them - so there is a lot of weekend disruption.

“A three-day weekend allows them to close the line for 72 hours - and that enables them to do much more work than during a 48-hour closure. No one likes the closure but it is making the line more reliable.”

And the bad news there is quite a lot more weekend engineering work planned over the next few months. It will make travelling to London or Norwich something of an adventure at times and will certainly make journeys take longer.

But we have to accept that if we want our rail system to carry on carrying us at speed and in safety, the work has to be done.

N see page….for a Suffolk Show report.

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