Blueprint referendum in Leiston is facing four-month delay for more work

A public vote on a blueprint aiming to shape the future of a Suffolk town may not take place until the autumn.

The four-month delay on the referendum for the Neighbourhood Plan at Leiston has arisen because unexpected extra work needs to be done to accompany the draft documents already prepared.

It had been hoped to hold the vote before the elections in May, with councillors concerned that the newly-elected council could take a different view on the plan with any changes likely to set it back many months.

Both the county council and Suffolk Coastal council have given the draft plan a thorough review to check that it meets all the necessary policies and requirements.

Town clerk John Rayner said it had now emerged that the document needed to be accompanied by a strategic environmental assessment and a landscape assessment to examine the potential impact of the plan’s proposals for new housing on Sites of Special Scientific Interest and other recognised habitat around the edge of the town.

Advice had been sought and everyone was working very hard on the studies, but the latest estimate was that the referendum was now unlikely to take place until August, September or October.

Tony Cooper, chairman of Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council, said: “That is very disappointing because we had hoped to go to the vote by May.”

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The draft neighbourhood plan has suggested the possible demolition of several buildings in Sizewell Road to create a new 1,720sq metre town square which could be used for a weekly market and events, with 2,052sqm of new shops around its edges, a 168-space underground car park and 31 new homes.

Land has also been identified for nearly 500 homes in the next 15 years, including sites at Highbury Cottages, Red House Lane, Abbey Road, and St Margaret’s Crescent.