Good to see that Great Barton feels the same way as Moreton Hall, Fornham and Westley about the borough council’s consultation, Vision 2031. This costly exercise starts by saying that over 6,000 new houses are going to be built in and around Bury St Edmunds and if you can’t consult about that, you can’t consult about anything!
In the first stage of this so-called consultation last year what were people most worried about?
Above anything, they were concerned about overdevelopment, travel and congestion and the unnecessary expansion of the town. Well the council has really taken that on board, hasn’t it, because we’re now going to have 6,000 houses which means 12,000 cars and around 30,000 journeys a day – shopping, to work and to school and back.
Where is the wonderful new infrastructure to respond to this and to cope with our existing travel problems? Park-and-ride where there obviously isn’t the space to put in bus lanes? More traffic light junctions with queues on the A14 junctions? Little bits of relief road to move the queues around? These are just platitudes because the simple fact is that Bury cannot cope with another 12,000 cars and maybe 20,000 people and maintain the quality of life we enjoy.
Why are the planners so keen to expand when there is so little support for it? Well you’d have to ask them, the voracious housing developers and the landowners who are going to make a packet out of turning profitable green farmland into estates by drawing a bigger circle around the town without regard for people and places.
Last time they proposed all this, it was because of what was called the Eastern Regional Spatial Strategy and the government requirement for more houses in East Anglia. They blamed someone else. That requirement has gone now with a change of government but the planners pretend it still exists. There has also been a recession and a financial crisis and the pipedream that there is going to be a massive expansion of new business and employment in Bury has nothing to do with building new estates. We already have plenty of people looking for jobs here.
Councillors also talk about the genuine need for social housing, but don’t kid yourselves – 80 per cent of these new homes will be owner-occupied for people who work in Ipswich, Cambridge and Haverhill clogging up the routes across town and the A14.
Why doesn’t the council develop brownfield sites and put some more life into the town centre as a residential community? The answer is simple. It is more expensive and it doesn’t line the developers’ pockets in the same way so, although everyone thinks it would be a good idea, it doesn’t fit into the consultation or the vision.
In fact, not much does. The questions the council poses are pointless because they do not go to the main issues. They don’t ask people about their visions for Bury because they know that whenever they have asked in the past the majority of people have gone for no change. People would like to see a pretty market town improved. They’d like to see car parking reorganised and better walking and cycling routes. They’d like to see the town centre looking less rundown. Those are the real local priorities and visions and not this glossy nonsense proposed by the council.