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West Suffolk: Creation of forum to ‘secure prosperity’

Tuesday, December 4, 2012
10.51 AM

A PLAN by two councils to create a new forum to discuss growth will help lead west Suffolk to “long-term prosperity”, it has been claimed.

Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council will today discuss the possibility of creating a West Suffolk Growth Steering Group to advise both councils on common planning policy and to encourage sustainable growth.

Business leaders last night said the plans, which follows a decision to merge the management of both councils, were very welcome.

According to papers that will be voted on by Forest Heath’s cabinet tonight, it is recommended that the new steering group is comprised of 12 councillors – six from St Edmundsbury and six from Forest Heath.

The chairmanship and vice-chairmanship will rotate annually and the group, which will feature representatives from development control committees and planning policy bodies, will be “politically balanced”.

St Edmundsbury’s cabinet currently has a sustainable development working party and Forest Heath has a local plan working group but the proposed group will look at wider issues.

It states: “Given the emphasis both councils place on growth and the shared challenges they face in that regard, there is also the opportunity to create a joint group which looks at the wider issues of growth across west Suffolk, whether these be in relation to planning policy, infrastructure, housing, economic development or environment.”

Andrew Denny, president of Bury St Edmunds Chamber Executive Committee, said the proposals were “welcome”.

He added: “It think it is part of the two authorities working increasingly closely together .

“It is very worthwhile and I wait to see what they can actually achieve.”

Rona Burt, Forest Heath cabinet member for planning, said: “With issues common to both councils, such as how we implement government policy and find land for housing, it makes sense to share the debate and respond on behalf of west Suffolk. We already have other shared committees, such as Joint Waste Committee, which help to avoid duplication of effort, prevent conflict and to create opportunities. This group will help us secure long term prosperity.”

There are no proposals to remove any of the group which overlap with the steering group, although there workloads maybe reduced.

The EADT previously reported how councillors from both councils had voted in favour of the creation of a Joint Management Team, as part of a “streamlining” initiative to save £2.5million.