An Evening With Mr Ridley

Philip RIdleyHalf of Waveney District Council is in the hands of officers at Suffolk Coastal Council based down the A12 in the picturesque old town of Woodbridge. Amongst them is Head of Planning Philip Ridley, noted for ignoring planning laws when he recommended the disastrous move of 500 council staff to an industrial park a mile from the town centre and for standing on his head in an attempt to get planning permission for Tesco to take over the Tramway Hotel in Pakefield.
The latest Development Control Committee considered allowing 72 private beach huts on Pakefield Promenade, bordering on a previously unspoilt, almost wild stretch of beach which lacks parking, water, toilets or lifeguards. Labour Councillor Sonya Barker, with the backing of Pakefield residents, put the case against cogently and forcefully. To no avail. After a rambling discussion Mr Ripley, looking down on the councillors from the top table, said that it was OK, the Labourgroup was in disarray, Pakefield Labour Councillor Pitchers voted in support and planning permission was granted.
The big issue was the plan by Cardy Construction to build 850 houses on the sites that once held Brooke Marine and Jeld Wen, and still contain docks, industrial buildings, a wildlife site, playing fields and businesses relating to the lakeside site, businesses that employ about 120 people.
Labour’s Nick Webb, with the backing of local campaigner Mike Warner, residents and businesses, prospective Labour MP Bob Blizzard, developer Peter Colby and a host of opponents who had protested outside and filled the Council Chamber as well as an overflow room, put the case against cogently and forcefully. A major part of his argument was the loss of prime waterfront sites which could and should be developed for industrial use.
Another rambling discussion ensued. Nothing was said about who the homes were for, or how these new residents would earn a crust. Southwold Tory councillor Sue Allen was annoyed by people who said thatjobs were needed first. The “marina” and the foot and cycle bridge across Lake Lothing although pictured in the implausible illustrations turned out not to be part of the plan, just an artist’s impression. The imaginary boats would be unreachable from the houses on stilts. The “shops, cafes and bars” were equally works of imagination. Our good friend Mr Ridley batted away objections and reduced the councillors to silence. Labour Councillor Julian Swainson and Green Graham Elliot focussed on the imaginary bridge, Swainson in the hope that its absence would allow a deferral of the decision, Elliot because he believes in cycling. The talented Mr Ridley half promised them an imaginary commitment “you have my assurance and commitment that the planning authority will do its best to endeavour to secure the delivery of the bridge.”
DemonstrationWith that Beccles’ Councillor Elliot voted to approve the plan, apparently unaware that Associated British Ports would scotch any idea of a bridge. Labour’s Malcolm Pitchers, famous for his rhetorical question during the debate on keeping Council jobs in the town centre, “But where are all the shoppers going to park?”, apparently unaware ofthe half-empty car parks, abstained. This unlikely alliance meant that the plan was approved and Mr Ridley could pack up his wrecking ball and happily drive back to Woodbridge.

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