To advise all Katcag supporters we have sent the following letter to Councillor Stuart Bird seeking clarification on a number of concerns between the Draft Local Plan and the Government's new Agricultural and Environmental bills
Dear Councillor Bird
Housing Needs And The Climate Emergency
You are a knowledgeable and respected local politician, and I am writing to you on behalf of the Kirton & Trimley Community Action Group (KATCAG) in the hope that you will be able to clarify Government, Suffolk County Council, East Suffolk District Council and Felixstowe Town Council policy / policies regarding the apparent contradiction between the supposed need for thousands of new houses, which will all be built on food-producing farmland, and the existential Climate Emergency.
Planning Inspector Philip Lewis BA (Hons) MA MRTPI is currently considering his position regarding the Suffolk Coastal Draft Local Plan, following the Independent Inquiry he chaired last August, and at which you gave evidence on behalf of Felixstowe Town Council. You will remember that representatives of KATCAG also gave evidence.
The Draft Local Plan proposes the building of large numbers of houses on Grade 1 and 2 farmland on the Felixstowe Peninsula, including a 2,000 home "garden neighbourhood" north of Gulpher Road, plus hundreds of new houses at various locations in Trimley St Martin and Trimley St Mary. Table 3.5 of the Draft Local Plan shows that a total of 4,028 new houses are planned between now and 2036 for Felixstowe and the Trimley villages. This figure does not include Windfalls, which have historically averaged almost 50 per annum in Felixstowe alone.
This large number of new homes means: (a) almost 9,000 new people (b) around 6,000 of whom will be in employment and (c) an average of at least 20,000 extra vehicle journeys on local and trunk roads every weekday. All of which will further strain every aspect of local infrastructure and worsen light, noise and particulates pollution.
It has recently been announced that Walton Surgery is due to close, which means that the current population will have even greater difficulty in getting satisfactory medical care. This situation will become even more critical, probably to the endangerment of life, if the Peninsular population is considerably increased.
You will have read recent press reports regarding A12 / A14 and Orwell Bridge accidents and closures, including: (a) a collision on the northbound carriageway of the A12 near the Copdock interchange with the A14 (b) a lorry crashing into cones on the eastbound carriageway of the Orwell Bridge and (c) a crash between two lorries on the Orwell Bridge causing long tailbacks and delays. These events all happened within the last few days and are examples of a regular pattern.
Accidents and closures on the road network will happen more often: (a) as a result of Climate Change, when extreme weather events, such as winds in excess of 50 mph, will become more frequent and (b) when more accidents will inevitably occur, including fatalities, due to increased / congested traffic. The Orwell Bridge is already at or close to its maximum working capacity. If the Innocence Farm Project is approved, the results will be truly disastrous and do not even bear thinking about. A knock-on impact of these events will be increased HGV and other traffic on the Trimley High Road.
These new homes are proposed despite the fact that, contrary to the District-wide trend, the populations of Felixstowe and the Trimley villages have remained static since the 2001 Census.
In addition, evidence was presented by KATCAG and others at the August Inquiry that very few new jobs would be created anywhere in the District over the life of the Local Plan and, more specifically, it was probable that jobs would be lost at BT Adastral Park and the Port of Felixstowe. Neither the representatives of the District Council's Planning Department nor their battery of experts and consultants who appeared at the Inquiry contradicted this negative evidence, nor could they identify any areas or activities where substantial numbers of new jobs would be created. Since there will be no new jobs on the Peninsula, all of the 6,000 employees referred to above will have to travel unsustainably off of the Peninsula to their places of work, this causing even more congestion and pollution.
The 2,000-home "Brightwell Lakes" development was promoted by the developers, and approved by Suffolk Coastal District Council, on the basis that thousands of jobs would be created at Adastral Park. Instead, as I am sure you are aware, BT have announced thousands of redundancies!
At present, the UK produces only 50% of its own food needs, and this figure will diminish if farmland is sacrificed for housing. As the World population increases, competition for food resources will become more aggressive. Therefore, surely the UK should be protecting and enhancing its means of food production? Indeed, Suffolk is rightly known as the Breadbasket of Britain. The Government has recognised this need with the strong three-way combination of its 25 Year Environment Plan plus the Agriculture and Environment Bills which will become law in the coming months.
I will not insult you by quoting from these documents, as I am sure you are already familiar with their contents. Suffice it to say that the environment will, quite rightly, be at the heart of future planning decisions. This means that there is an apparent contradiction between building thousands of houses on food producing farmland and preserving the same farmland as a food-producing environmental asset.
Many Local Authorities across the UK have declared Climate Emergencies, including: (a) Suffolk County Council on 3 January 2019 (b) East Suffolk District Council on 24 July 2019 and (c) Felixstowe Town Council on 10 July 2019. Very commendably, as a County, District and Town Councillor you voted in favour of all three Climate Emergency Declarations.
On the Suffolk Conservatives web site you state: "I stood for election as I am committed to Conservative ideals and beliefs."
It seems that local and national Conservative policies, or "ideals and beliefs", differ with regard to the environment in that: (a) the Conservative District Council wants to destroy irreplaceable food-producing farmland and risk our future wellbeing by building thousands of houses that, on an evidential basis, are not needed, whereas (b) the Conservative Government recognises the impacts of the Climate Emergency and is aspiring to preserve the very same farmland.
KATCAG and many residents of the Peninsula have a dilemma. So far as the Climate Emergency and the need to preserve food-producing farmland is concerned which "Conservative" policy takes precedence - local or national?
You have also stated that: "As a Councillor, I enjoy representing my constituents and helping to achieve a solution to the problems they bring to me."
On behalf of KATCAG and interested residents we are now bringing this problem to you as our local representative, and we look forward to the benefits of your knowledge and a clarification of our dilemma.
We will be happy to publish this correspondence on the KATCAG web-site and other social media pages, as well as the local press.
We look forward to your response, which I am sure will be both interesting and informative.
Kirton and Trimley Community Action Group