Seaside too reliant on its port for jobs

PERHAPS I am a pessimist, but the planners’ insistence that homes are needed for those employed in lots of new jobs in the Felixstowe area in the years ahead is worrying.

Providing housing to match the jobs growth is one of the key drivers in the allocation of new homes.

True, it’s not the only one. People living longer – there will be twice as many aged 85-plus by 2030 – and the numbers preferring to live alone or forced to by divorce or separation are also key factors.

So new homes will be needed, and while there are those who continue to fight the 1,800 suggested for the Felixstowe area, it is likely that those numbers will not be cut – in fact, more likely that they will be increased.

It appears Suffolk Coastal may have massaged the figures too greatly. Government is looking for more, not less, and that could mean even more for Felixstowe and the Trimleys.

But in the Felixstowe area it is jobs that are the worry.

The council’s “new” aim is to ensure the town is not reliant on the port. But that has been its policy for at least 15 years and so far has not met with much success.

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In the 30 years I have been in the town, non port-related jobs have not grown but have actually reduced. Factories have been lost, others have cut their workforces, companies have moved away. Far fewer are now employed in tourism.

There are empty premises all over town. Indo European Foods’ move to the town was one of few successes but the building had always been a factory.

Yes, our town centre is not failing – one councillor suggested recently it was thriving because there are few empty units, but I think traders would disagree – but shops do not provide many jobs. If Tesco at Walton Green is built it could provide 200, but 90 per cent will be part-time, vital for mums seeking to help the family budget but not enough for people to pay a mortgage.

Ironically, the only growth place has been in port-related jobs.

The recession has seen this curbed and now the threat of London Gateway, targeting the port’s business, could see this reversed unless Hutchison Whampoa can successfully fight off the opposition.

So it’s hard to know where these new jobs will come from (with no new land allocated yet for business) and we just have to hope it doesn’t mean hundreds more people commuting up and down the A14. Hardly “sustainable”, as Suffolk Coastal’s buzz word would have it.

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