Woodbridge Caterpillar Children’s Centre threatened with closure


Suffolk County Council seems to be proposing to close our Caterpillar Children’s Centre, without option.

At least, there will be a consultation in September. But county Cabinet papers for our centre have approved  3 options for consultation – and each is the same: ‘Closure’.

Remarkably, the first time I heard of this – despite the Caterpillar being a County Council-run operation, and I being the County Councillor for Woodbridge – was when I read it in the East Anglian Daily Times. How disrespectful to Woodbridge and its residents.

I asked the relevant Suffolk county Cabinet Member – face to face – why this was the case, but have yet to receive  a satisfactory answer.

Maybe he is unaware that the Caterpillar Centre is a much valued resource for Woodbridge and district young families . It provides a safe space where parents can talk through their concerns with other parents and a range of professionals while their young children (0-5 years) can participate in a wide range of activities.  As the County Council’s leaflet (you can find it here) points out, as well as many other  programmes a great deal of important work is done with young children with special educational needs and disabilities.

This early intervention saves money AND unhappiness later on, and supports future social cohesion with benefits for everyone.

Woodbridge Resident Ashley Meyer and County Councillor Caroline Page are deeply concerned about the threatened closure of Woodbridge’s Caterpillar Children’s centre

Ashley Meyer, Woodbridge resident, and a long-term nursery school governor says, “County Councillor Gordon Jones  states that some of this work can be done by parents making contact with professionals through Facebook.  I believe this thinking shows a misunderstanding of how Children’s Centres work.   It is the ability to attend the Children’s Centres over a prolonged period of time and to meet other parents and professionals face- to- face that is so valuable for parents who are isolated and vulnerable. This proposed closure is therefore an attack on the future of our community!”

Ashley Meyer is URGENTLY organizing a non party-political campaign to fight closure. I am strongly supporting this as County Councillor.

Please contact Ashley asap on
07960 923125

Please note there will be a  March against Children’s Centres closures and cuts across Suffolk Coastal on  Saturday 14th September, 2019, starting Elmhurst Park, 11am

Melton Hill – the wedges strike back

New plans for the Melton Hill development have been submitted- and surprise, surprise, they are pretty much the same as before. If you want to write, do so by Thursday 25th  July (Link here – though you will be given a little latitude to get in submissions after this date. However officers will start examining the application week beginning 29th July ).                   

Here is my response

I am writing as County Councillor for Woodbridge to comment on new plans submitted for the  Melton Hill development of the former Suffolk Coastal District council offices.

These seem to be very similar to the original plans, which is disappointing.

Current national planning policy “seeks to significantly boost the supply of homes through a sufficient amount and variety of land that will come forward where it is needed, to meet the needs of groups with specific housing requirements”.

Accordingto the Suffolk Coastal Local Plan, the District Council “shares the government’s ambition and is seeking to deliver sustainable communities across the District.”

It seems strange therefore that the significant need that clearly exists in Woodbridge: indeed the overwhelming need for affordable housing for the town’s young families, home-leavers, down-sizers, people with disabilities, low-earners is not at the heart of this development.

It is also strange that in the very recent past the district council had proposed extending the conservation boundary for Woodbridge town to include such buildings as “Council Offices No 112 Thoroughfare – A substantial mid nineteenth century classical villa constructed of white brick with projecting eaves and a slate roof. Much of its original external joinery survives,“ and even mentioning favourably the mid C20 redbrick council offices next to it. The rationale was clear: “extending the conservation boundary would contribute significantly to safeguarding the setting of the GII listed Maltings cottage, Melton Hill, and no  42 Deben Road, … It would also afford protection to a number of presently unlisted structures that make a strong positive contribution to the character of this part of town.”

Surely the only reason this aspiration can have been omitted from the recent consultation on Woodbridge’s Conservation boundary is because elements within the District Council have predetermined that 112 Thoroughfare should be destroyed –  to facilitate development of a frontage containing the brick, aluminium and concrete ‘Block E”? This cannot be right. Continue reading Melton Hill – the wedges strike back

The Ipswich Northern Route – £500m to solve the wrong problem


It seems clear the  supporters of the Ipswich Northern Route fall into two separate camps.

On one hand, those who “really believe” in zero-carbon measures -“but not in my back yard “. Who feel if they mention electric cars, young families, hardpressed workers, they’re  on the side of the angels.

They quote noise, health, traffic jams but -frankly – just want to send problems somewhere else – at a cost of half a billion. In some circles this attitude’s called Greenwash.

And then the growth argument. Everyone loves growth. That nebulous, shiny entrepreneurial panacea that solves all our problems. Worship at the altar of growth and you’ll get the house you can’t afford and the job that doesn’t exist. This growth being promised us by a party who can only balance their books by removing vital  transport from bus-pass holders. To save the very same sum we’re spending on  this consultation!

So, it seems we’ve a choice. Greenwash  or Hogwash .

‘Growth’ is an excuse for the administration to fritter money they don’t have on sexy, big-boy projects. Just as they use ‘tough choices’ to justify NOT spending small sums on people who really need it. Rural buses or a consultation on a half-billion pound road?  No contest!

I sympathise with Ipswich residents for the difficulties the Orwell bridge can cause them. Just as I sympathise with Woodbridge , Martlesham, Melton residents faced daily with ever more A12 traffic  past their doors. Or our country dwellers faced with more cars, more development , zero buses.

But the Northern route won’t solve most of our transport problems: congestion in town caused by commuters, football matches, Rod Stewart, the lost Park & Ride, Suffolk Show  and all the other reasons for jams in Ipswich.

It’s a Trojan horse. Or a nice big sparkly unicorn.

Have we forgotten that the Orwell Bridge solved a problem of traffic through Ipswich? Valley Road, Chevallier Street  became really quiet after the Orwell bridge opened. But now they’re as busy as before. Induced traffic expands to fill the space provided. Why make the same mistake again?

So what is the solution? I could tell you it nicely –or I can tell you it like it is.  And I am Caroline Page.

There’s no point enabling a new route that can’t come online before 2027 when we only have till 2030 to achieve a carbon-neutral Suffolk. We have eleven years – they must be used better. When Suffolk declared a Climate Emergency, we weren’t imagining it.

All new roads invariably increase carbon – both embedded and from traffic. We need at least a 20% reduction in road mileage. Friends of the Earth are calling on a moratorium on all new roadbuilding.  On less provision, not more.

And yes, the way out IS development, but not like this.

Moving to a new environment, people change their habits.

But why is the tail wagging the dog? We need housing first, road second. Not road first and mixed messages as to where the housing might go afterwards.

New developments should be planned around transport, no Continue reading The Ipswich Northern Route – £500m to solve the wrong problem