All posts by Caroline Page

New Woodbridge County Boundary defined

The Boundary Commission has published its final recommendations for new electoral arrangements for Suffolk County Council.

In short – we  made it! We saved Woodbridge from the cashew-nut attack!

When the  Boundary Commission proposals for Suffolk’s new county council division boundaries came out last year, something looked very wrong.

This is what they proposed for Woodbridge:

The first proposed “new Woodbridge” division, which included Little  Bealings, Hasketon, Bredfield and Ufford  while circling round  Melton – and so excluding houses 500m from Woodbridge Town Centre from being part of Woodbridge

The proposal – which I believe originated with  the county or district Conservative group – would leave Woodbridge Primary school in the adjoining division, while designing a ‘cashew nut’ division by adding the villages from Little Bealings round to Ufford(!) while excluding  all the houses on the far side of Pytches road. The divisional boundary thus would remain where it is now, along the dashed line down the middle of Pytches road. This was frankly ludicrous.

This unusual scheme would mean people could and would be living 500 yards from Woodbridge Town centre,  but be in a county division that was linked with Sudbourne and Bawdsey rather than with Woodbridge!

This was not the new division  proposed by myself or many others in Woodbridge. It did not make local sense. Other divisional boundaries in East Suffolk were equally lacking in local sense. We were told by a local politician that these weird configurations were “just a matter of simple maths.”

Right.

As this seemed to be very inappropriate in terms of simple democracy, I spent a full 24 hours , while ill with Covid,  assisted by Woodbridge Town LibDem Leader Patrick Gillard (also Covid-stricken) working against the deadline, indulging in a spot of simple maths: simply adding up the sums of residents in each parish, dividing them both equally and practically,  and creating and lining new boundaries on a map for the entire East Suffolk district, to create a more effective and democratically appropriate set of proposals.

The boundary we proposed for Woodbridge looked like this:

Redrawn new boundary for Woodbridge as proposed by me and consulted on by the Boundary Commission

A further consultation, responded to by many groups and persons, not least Woodbridge Town Council, confirmed the revised boundaries, which the Boundary Commission have now agreed.

So the new county council division of Woodbridge should look like this:

In other words,  pretty much exactly what we proposed. You can follow the process and see the big map here https://www.lgbce.org.uk/all-reviews/eastern/suffolk/suffolk-county-council

This is a win for both democracy and common-sense.

And the moral is, if you think a mistake has been made, it’s worth working  hard to put it right!

 

Melton Hill development – again

The boarded and empty buildings that were once the Suffolk Coastal premises
Desolate, barred and empty – the old Suffolk Coastal buildings, controversially still awaiting development

So, the old Suffolk Coastal Offices on Melton Hill are finally back on the market after five years of boarded windows, weedy courtyards, and locked barriers to unoccupied car parks.

Not before time. The entire process to now has been a fiasco.

Never was there five years when the existence of such a lot of empty space showed up so badly. There they stood, wifully and wastefully unused in a town that is bursting at the seams  – a town where there’s nowhere to park, nowhere for people of even moderate means to rent or buy, where every little wedge of extra space is for sale or in the process of development. And the people who grew up in Woodbridge (as did their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents) are increasingly squeezed out.

We needed social space – yet all those rooms, the spacious council chamber, were locked and unavailable.

We needed parking – yet the car-parks were not available.

We had a need for shelter – yet the nearest place for the homeless was either Felixstowe or Ipswich.

And, we’ve long had a need for ordinary homes for ordinary people: young singles, living with their parents long after they wanted to; older people wanting to downsize but unable to afford  to, disabled people needing specialised accommodation with freedom, and young families wanting to establish themselves here. We need them as much as they need the housing.

In a year of lockdown, when extra space was at a premium it seemed particularly and  shockingly redundant because we needed these things more – as key workers, living with elderly parents had to isolate, or numbers of adult children descended on their parents.

That ever more crumbling site could have been put to many uses to benefit us, it’s ultimate owners.

So now that it’s back on the market again, let’s not make the mistake of such deadly inaction, East Suffolk!

And when we look at getting added value for the people of the district, and approval from the town and its inhabitants, please let’s remember value is not always a matter of hard cash. We can sell the site for a quick buck – or we can develop the site within some form of unsaleable trust  to create dynamic and environmentally sustainable community housing with sustainable transport links to support the people of the area for generations to come.



 

Incel recognition training in Suffolk

Following the terrible and tragic events in Plymouth last Thursday, it seemed clear that the Incel movement is a barely recognised but increasing extremist movement fostered by lone online contacts – ad that lockdown was an ideal time for such a movement to grow unrecognised.

I therefore wrote to Cllr Matthew Hicks, Leader, and Nicola Beach CEO of SCC, copied to all county councillors:

It has become clear that the “incel ” movement, which radicalises some young men via hatred of women, is as much a danger to the public as any other extremist movement. It is also currently flying under the radar.

As shadow Spokesperson for Women I am asking you to assure me that SCC Combating Extremism training will in future include information about the incel ideology, how it is spread, who is at risk, and how best it can be combated.

Such training would seem to be essential both within the council and for the organisations it supports, to allow professionals and councillors to help identify and contain any such movement within the county.

I will be writing separately to Tim Passmore to express the same concerns.

I have since received a reply from Nicola Beach on behalf of herself and the Leader to confirm that training will be altered to include this.