Hadleigh loves red-blooded politics

HADLEIGH is an attractive Suffolk market town – the kind of place where genteel middle England lives and thrives.But when its citizens get to grips with an issue, boy do the go for it! Hadleigh loves its politics in the raw – preferably dripping with blood.

HADLEIGH is an attractive Suffolk market town - the kind of place where genteel middle England lives and thrives.

But when its citizens get to grips with an issue, boy do the go for it! Hadleigh loves its politics in the raw - preferably dripping with blood. Last week I experienced the passion that you find in Hadleigh politics at first hand as I chaired a meeting to discuss the future of swimming in the town.

The Guildhall was packed, and in fact was overflowing - more about that in a minute - and the audience was in determined mood.

I had an inkling of what to expect because a few years ago I covered a public meeting called to discuss the proposed Tesco supermarket in the town.


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That was really hairy because public opinion in Hadleigh was - and remains - split right down the middle.

All the pro-Tesco people were on one side and all the anti-Tesco forces on the other. I could see why there were uniformed police officers at the door, and I remember one angry man shouting “I know where you live!” to someone on the other side of the argument.

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Last week's meeting didn't quite have the same needle because everyone in the audience seemed to agree that Hadleigh must have a pool - and were prepared to use any tactics to get the message across.

One of the most bizarre protests came from a leading member of the Hadleigh Town Forum who waited outside the hall for about 20 minutes until it was full - and then complained that he couldn't get in!

I couldn't help feeling that, watching the meeting develop, it would be a good idea to invite Arthur Scargill to move to Hadleigh in his retirement.

He and the good people of the town could certainly teach each other a thing or two about political agitation!

But turning back to the central question - the people at the meeting certainly didn't grasp the basic fact that Babergh is more than just Hadleigh, even if the council offices are in the town.

And frankly the district is starting to look very fractured over this and a number of other issues.

I was speaking to one leading figure from the Shotley area the other day who told me: “If the good people of Hadleigh think we're going to pay for their swimming pool, they're crazy!

“Their councillors stuffed us by voting through the Shotley Gate development, why should we pay for their pool when everyone from here goes swimming in Ipswich?”

SUFFOLK Coastal isn't usually known for incompetence and unfairness - but that's the impression it's starting to give over its treatment of Karl Rout at the Orwell Crossing transport café.

The council's planning department seems to have lost its collective mind by telling the café that it can only serve lorry drivers.

It says this decision was made on safety grounds - that lorries using the slip road to turn off to the café can be seen more easily by other traffic than cars.

But cars already use the slip road to get to McDonalds - and before the Orwell Crossing opened its site was occupied by a petrol station which had far more car movements than you get at a café.

So using the safety argument looks like a red herring - and frankly it looks as if Suffolk Coastal as a council is protecting the business of big multi-national McDonalds, while kicking the local operator in the shins.

Put bluntly, if it's dangerous for cars to use the slip road to get to the Orwell Crossing, it's dangerous for them to use the slip road to get to McDonalds. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander!

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