Resort must develop or die

ACTION must be taken to stop the “negative trends” which are threatening Felixstowe's future, a meeting was told today.

Richard Cornwell

FRESH sites may have to be examined for 1,700 homes after community leaders today rejected proposals to build a massive new estate on the edge of Felixstowe.

Councillors decided the properties should be “scattered” on a mixture of sites rather than being built mainly on fields on the resort's northern edge and between Walton and Trimley St Mary.

They decided it should be “organic and evolutionary” growth, allowing for the town to develop as homes were needed.

Despite concern over whether the homes were actually required, councillors were told they had to allocate land for a minimum of 1,720 and most would still end up on farmland but spread throughout the area.

More than 1,400 residents had protested about the proposals from planning officers to break the seaside town's boundaries and build homes on its countryside.

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Mayor Mike Deacon told a packed seven-hour meeting at the Hotel Elizabeth Orwell in Felixstowe that the town could not sustain the huge amount of development in an area where there was such a reliance on one employer, the Port of Felixstowe.

“We do need affordable homes for those young people who want to live here and stay in this area but certainly not 1,700 new houses,” he said.

He said taking the fields would destroy a rural idyll which had been enjoyed by generations of ramblers, cyclists, horse riders, runners and birdwatchers.

It was a site with an abundance of wildlife, home to endangered species, and had been described by consultants as a precious, important and fragile wildlife habitat.

“I think we have a duty to preserve this land for future generations to enjoy,” said Mr Deacon.

Councillor Stephen Burroughes said he was against ill-planned urban sprawl and was worried about the pressure the extra homes would put on the peninsula, and every effort needed to be made to preserve prime farmland.

Barry Slater said: “My contention is it is better to have organic growth of an existing settlement rather than dumping it all in one place.”

But Andy Smith, chairman of the local development framework task group, favoured the large edge of town site.

“There are huge benefits from swallowing hard and looking at the bigger picture,” he said.

“The danger with small amounts here, there and everywhere is that you build ever more remote from existing shops and town with less chance to get significant sums of money to solve some of the problems and create a new and better place.

“There is a good case for doing the difficult thing in the short term for the long term quality you create.

“I am very keen on a fully designed development on one site with the infrastructure provided as I do believe that is the best way forward for the future population of Felixstowe.”

Planning officer Steve Brown said the resort needed to “develop or die”.

The government had also told Suffolk Coastal it must provide 10,200 new homes by 2025, and it was logical a proportion of these were built at Felixstowe to deal with the town's problems and also where there were jobs being created by the port.

“That figure set by the government is a minimum figure - it is not a ceiling which should not be exceeded,” said Mr Brown.

“We have got to identify a 15-year supply of land which is ready for this development.

“There is not enough brownfield sites. We cannot be speculative - we must show that land has been identified and is available for the homes which need to be built.”

Consultants David Lock has identified the negative trends and said at least 1,700 homes would be needed to stop the town declining.

Falling school rolls, young people moving away to seek homes and jobs, a decline in leisure facilities, a need to revitalise its tourism, and a possible threat to the viability of the shopping centre were just some of the problems causing major concern.

“Without intervention those negative trends will continue,” added Mr Brown.

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