Where's the new rail line?

THIS week's statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer could be good news for Ipswich if the government really does go ahead and spend money on new projects in the area like schools, roads, and UCS.

THIS week's statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer could be good news for Ipswich if the government really does go ahead and spend money on new projects in the area like schools, roads, and UCS.

But it was rather irritating to hear transport minister Geoff Hoon get up and make great play of the improvements the government would be making to roads and railways in the area.

The single project which would do most to make road and rail travel easier for passengers and drivers was notably absent from his statement - even though it could transform transport at a reasonable cost.

Why on earth didn't he take the chance to upgrade the cross-country rail line from Felixstowe to Nuneaton through Ely and Peterborough so freight trains heading to the Midlands and North West from Suffolk would no longer have to chug around the capital causing congestion on the line to London?

Instead the government is going ahead with upgrading the north London line to take these trains - it's sheer madness!

Despite that gripe, however, the decisions outlined earlier this week by the government are a very interesting reaction to the economic crisis gripping the world - and are very different to the medicine we were given in the last really deep recession back in the early 1980s.

Most Read

Then the problems were different, of course, the root cause of that recession was worldwide inflation which caused a worldwide recession - governments squeezed inflation out of the economy by pushing up interest and unemployment rates.

This time inflation is just a fraction of what it was then and governments, led by Gordon Brown, have taken a very different route to try to get out of the mire.

By trying to boost the economy the government is using methods first seen during the 1930s when Franklin Rooseveldt introduced the New Deal in America.

In theory it should ease the deepest troughs of the recession - but it will also dull the peak of any boom which follows. Because when the economy is going swimmingly, taxes will have to be much higher than they have been in the past to pay for the borrowing the government has indulged in over the months of recession.

And in doing that it is certainly true that New Labour has effectively come to an end and traditional politics has returned in Britain.

Labour is now a high-tax, high-spending party. It is a party that wants to use the government's power to make life better for people in the country.

In opposing many of the government's high-spending proposals the Tories have re-asserted themselves as a low-tax party. They want to leave people with more money to spend their own way out of recession.

So the philosophical battle-lines are drawn and will form the background to a phoney election war which could last another 18 months.

How the country fares in the recession will determine the fate of Messrs Brown and Cameron. But I do wish that an improved east-west rail link had been included in the medicine cabinet!

AFTER my salvo at Doreen Savage and Suffolk Coastal planners about the proposed new Caffè Nero in Felixstowe, I was expecting a comment from the coast - and it is only fair to include her reply.

Mrs Savage wrote to say: “I am completely in favour of any enterprise coming into the retail part of Hamilton Road especially in the present economic climate provided it is within the permitted range for the area.

“Empty shops are not to be welcomed. However, I was asked the question by the press about how this present enterprise compared with Puccino's as far as planning permission is concerned and had to truthfully say that nothing has changed on the planning front since that time and that the same planning guidance applies in Caffè Nero's case as it did for Puccino's.

“That said, I am sure there will be the opportunity for development control members at Suffolk Coastal to make a decision in this case that might not comply with any officer recommendation and at the moment, no one knows what that might be.

“Certainly planning guidance is being reviewed to avoid a replay of the Puccino fiasco,

“BUT, the present guidance was introduced to stop banks, building societies and estate agents from taking over prime retail sites, which was the case in the recent past. “Puccino's provided an excellent venue and service, but it was not just Suffolk Coastal who objected to it being there without permission, but some of the other traders in Hamilton Road too.

“Yes, I am passionate about Felixstowe and its future and will do everything possible to ensure that it continues to provide the very best services for its residents, and people such as yourself who enjoy shopping here. At the last count you could buy coffee in 17 different establishments in the town!”

I don't doubt Mrs Savage's commitment to Felixstowe, but I really cannot understand why councillors seem so set on being tied up by the rules that they have drawn up for themselves.

What is the great difference between a sports shop and a coffee shop? If every store in Hamilton Road was a coffee shop it would die as a shopping centre.

If every inch was taken with a shop it would not thrive because there would be nowhere for shoppers to sit down over a cuppa for a few minutes.

But the exact balance cannot be determined by planners sitting in Woodbridge - it has to be decided by people who know the town.

And in her original comments - and reading between the lines of her reply - Mrs Savage knows that Caffè Nero is a plus, not a minus, for Felixstowe.

That must be the determining factor when she comes to make her decision at Suffolk Coastal - not some nebulous policy drawn up in different times whose only purpose is to strangle Felixstowe town centre in red tape!

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter