Reply to Councillor David Richie on the Council’s Area Action Plan

Councillor Ritchie’s complaints (Journal, Nov 21st) about attacks on Waveney District Council’s Area Action Plan miss the point. What enrages people is the Council’s determination to build thousands of houses on land already occupied by viable businesses and which contain industrial buildings and docks that could and should be developed to provide jobs. That there is a private investor in Peter Colby who is willing to do just that makes matters worse.

In spite of massive opposition planning permissions are pushed through. Waveney District Council (WDC) is building itself new £13.6m offices in an enterprise zone set up to encourage energy related industries. The Woodbridge-based Head of Planning, Philip Ridley, convinced councillors to ignore planning laws. No impact assessment was made on the effect of moving 500 jobs out of the town centre and no alternative town centre sites were considered. He failed to correct the claim that hundreds of thousands of pounds would be saved on business rates. Now Council leaders want us to tell them what to do with an empty Grade II Listed Town Hall in need of repair. Fix it and keep it as the Town Hall perhaps?

At last month’s planning meeting Labour Councillor Nick Webb questioned yet another mass house building scheme. The Brooke Peninsula and the Jeld Wen sites would add another 850 homes to the 350 already approved for the Sanyo site. The questions he raised were largely ignored but we did learn that the marina, the shops and cafes, the bobbing boats and the bridge across the lake are not part of the plan, just pictures. Only the houses and the loss of much of the wildlife park are real. Even the failure to provide the recommended “affordable housing” was approved. Waveney’s own “experienced, professionally-qualified planning policy officers” (to quote Councillor Richie) said that the developer would find that too expensive.

Major local builders declined to invest here. The land is contaminated and much is liable to flooding. Houses close to the waterfront will have to be built on stilts. Cardy Construction intends to finance the difficult and costly builds by selling off homes on the easier parts. As John Wylson pointed out (Journal, Nov 14th) that is a long and very uncertain road. The Council has no guarantee if or when the scheme will be completed but we can be sure that the existing industrial infrastructure will be bulldozed and the precious waterfront site lost.

There is a shortage of housing in London and where there are jobs. In Lowestoft many thousands of jobs have gone and new ones are largely agency work, casual, part-time or on zero hour contracts. Lowestoft College is planning more redundancies and rumours abound about the closure of the Lowestoft courts. Jobs at the prison have gone and the CEFAS laboratories are down to be replaced by housing. The Councils are facing massive funding cuts. They will sack people. Few local people will be able to buy any kind of a home never mind the ones planned for the Brooke Peninsula.

The great majority of residents have lost faith in the Tory Council, its supine planning officers and an absentee Head of Planning who flouts planning laws. Equally to blame are those councillors of all parties who consistently fail to challenge the council. Lowestoft needs good jobs not more houses.

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