Ipswich to run its own affairs

IPSWICH is to be at the heart of a new authority covering the south east of Suffolk, including Felixstowe and the Shotley peninsula, the government's boundary committee announced today.

IPSWICH is to be at the heart of a new authority covering the south east of Suffolk, including Felixstowe and the Shotley peninsula, the government's boundary committee announced today.

Lowestoft is to be merged with councils in Norfolk, and rural Suffolk - from Aldeburgh in the east to Newmarket in the west - is to be run by a rural single-tier authority.

The shake-up signals the end for Suffolk County Council as well as the county's seven district authorities.

The new Suffolk authority - described as “North Haven” in the boundary committee's document - extends from the Orwell/Stour estuary to the Deben estuary.

It includes the Shotley peninsula as far west as the A12 - including the villages of Capel St Mary and Stratford St Mary.

To the west of Ipswich it includes the villages of Bramford, Sproughton, Claydon, Barham and the Blakenhams.

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This is the government's prefered option, and the decision will come as a bitter blow to councillors in West Suffolk who had hoped for the revival of the ancient county.

The boundary committee says that the option of a unitary Suffolk - not including Lowestoft - is also possible but this is not its preferred solution.

James Hehir, chief executive at Ipswich Borough Council, welcomed it as creating an economic powerhouse.

He said: “This is good news, but it is not a case of Ipswich taking over other villages, it is a completely new council.”

Ipswich Borough Council has backed a greater Ipswich authority ever since a previous bid by the authority for unitary status floundered at the final hurdle last year.

Liz Harsant, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said: “It would give us the freedom to do what we want to do for the betterment of the people of Ipswich and outer Ipswich.”

Following today's expected announcement a public consultation on the draft proposals will begin.

Final recommendations on the future shape of Suffolk will be made to government on December 31.

Anger and disbelief were the main reactions in Felixstowe and the rest of Suffolk Coastal today to the government's proposals for the council shake-up.

Suffolk Coastal leader Ray Herring said it was a “carve-up that has butchered our county and our districts”.

He said: “This is a farcical situation whereby the Boundary Commission have ignored the solutions offered to them and are instead looking to impose something which has no understanding of the communities of Suffolk.

“In a very short time period, a range of interesting proposals for the future were offered, yet the BCE have come up with a solution for Ipswich based on a couple of maverick proposals and paired it with an option that nobody requested, with an alternative that again nobody wanted.

“This was a golden opportunity to provide better, more efficient services that engaged with and served local communities, but it has been squandered with a carve-up that has butchered our county and our districts.

“At the root of this review was the government's desire to achieve unitary status for Ipswich, but they have done it in a way that ignores logic and community ties.

“Our proposal would have seen Felixstowe in the same council as Lowestoft which made far more sense as they both face similar coastal defence and regeneration challenges.

“Now we have the ridiculous prospect of three different councils managing our county's coastal defences.

“The communities that make up Felixstowe now face the threat of becoming part of an aspiring city that needs to expand to achieve its goals, and with urban and social issues that are not those of a resort town.

“I am equally concerned about our communities between Felixstowe and Ipswich who have made it crystal clear that they do not want to be seen as some kind of Outer Ipswich. Their voice has been ignored so far, and what chance would they have to protect their largely rural lifestyles in a new unitary that will inevitably have urban regeneration as its biggest goal?”

Former Felixstowe mayor Doreen Savage, a member of Felixstowe Town Council and a cabinet member at Suffolk Coastal, said: “I am really taken aback - this is a real shock horror.

“I had not even considered a scenario where Ipswich and Felixstowe could become part of the same authority and had thought the tried and tested return to the former east and west Suffolk would make most sense.

“Ipswich has always been very independent and I don't see that Felixstowe has anything in common with Ipswich at all - they are completely different, with completely different issues, problems and interests and not related in any way, shape or form.”

She hoped if the new arrangement does go through that there might be a possibility of more powers being given to the town council to enable it to run more services.

How would you like to see Suffolk change? Write to: Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk