Councillor calls for new town

Wednesday, 24 June, 2009

A BRAND new town should be built on a 'greenfield' site in west Suffolk rather than bolting thousands of extra homes onto existing communities, it was claimed last night.

The controversial suggestion from newly elected county councillor Trevor Beckwith, a magistrate who also sits on St Edmundsbury Borough Council, comes amid a major project by the borough council to work out where 8,000 new homes might go.

Mr Beckwith has called on the council to explore alternatives to the options already put forward, which includes putting thousands of new homes between Bury St Edmunds and the village of Westley and expanding a number of larger villages into what the council calls 'key service centres'.

His proposal, which his critics admit should be debated, is for a brand new town in the countryside by the side of the A14.

Mr Beckwith, who represented Moreton Hall, itself a former council-owned greenfield plot, said: 'The town (Bury) itself seems to be out of control - when are they going to say enough is enough?

'It is not a matter of whether we need new houses because we do, it is about whether there are alternatives to simply expanding existing developments.

'My preferred option is for a new town or village. We have a right to be protected - yes people need houses, but what about the people who already live here?'

Terry Clements, the council's portfolio holder for planning, said there was little chance of a major new development being built in the Suffolk countryside.

He said: 'We've looked at various scenarios. It is difficult but when you do the planning then in the future development will be nearer the town centres.'

He said building brand new infrastructure such as schools and roads for a new community was too costly and the green travel ethos meant new developments would be built close to existing centres rather than freshly created communities in the countryside.

David Ruffley, Bury MP, said he did not think a new settlement bigger than Elmswell or Needham Market would be built along the A14 in west Suffolk but he welcomed Mr Beckwith's opening the debate.

He said he thought the 8,000 new home figure for the borough was too high adding: 'The infrastructure is already grinding under the weight of congestion.'

Sarah Green, chairman of the Bury Society, said: 'The society takes the view that any future expansion should be to the west of the town and of course, it is vitally important that any development has the necessary infrastructure, well thought out and planned.

'There is certainly some merit in the idea of creating completely new communities thus protecting the existing ones.

'We think that consideration should also be given to providing smaller developments, especially affordable homes, in the surrounding villages, dependant on good and improved amenities and based on the wishes and needs of the residents.'