Council shake-up: No-one is happy

A UNITARY council covering Ipswich, Felixstowe, Kesgrave and the Shotley peninsular could be up and running within two years, with the rest of Suffolk except Lowestoft being served by a council stretching from Newmarket to Southwold.

Graham Dines

A UNITARY council covering Ipswich, Felixstowe, Kesgrave and the Shotley peninsular could be up and running within two years, with the rest of Suffolk except Lowestoft being served by a council stretching from Newmarket to Southwold.

However, the independent Boundary Committee for England has not ruled out a single unitary county for Suffolk which is its favoured option for Norfolk and has put both plans out to public consultation before submitting its final proposals to the Government.

Whichever proposal becomes the final concept, there'll be a huge battle to prevent Lowestoft being linked with Norfolk. The Boundary Committee believes a whole county unitary for Norfolk, including Norwich, should encompass Lowestoft.


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An alternative concept which is being considered is a unitary covering Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, with an additional Norfolk rural authority, while it has yet to rule out a greater Norwich council and a rest of Norfolk plus Lowestoft council.

Under the Boundary Committee's preferred option, the rest of Waveney - Southwold, Halesworth, Beccles and Bungay - would be incorporated into the Suffolk rural unitary, with its headquarters probably in Bury St Edmunds.

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Waveney's council leader Mark Bee will lead the fight to prevent Lowestoft being hived off into Norfolk. “Who could possibly support a proposal to have Lowestoft's affairs run out of Norwich by a huge authority, serving nigh on 900,000 singly determined to meet the needs of Norfolk communities?

“People have to stand up to this and tell the Boundary Committee that Lowestoft is in Suffolk and is not a suburb of Norwich. Lowestoft does not share the same needs and aspirations as Kings Lynn and Thetford.”

The committee's plans for Suffolk shocked council leaders across the county, who had not anticipated the sweeping scale of change under the review ordered by ministers after they rejected last December a bid by Ipswich to run its own affairs independently from the county council.

The Ipswich and Felixstowe unitary with a population of 201,000 would create a major economic powerhouse in the south-east of Suffolk, bringing under one umbrella council two major docks complexes, the county's new university, and BT Research at Martlesham.

Major projects within the new administrative area would include the proposed SnOasis development at Great Blakenham and the redevelopment of HMS Ganges at Shotley and the former British Sugar factory at Sproughton.

The new boundary would also take in the Ipswich satellite estates at Kesgrave, Martlesham, and Pinewood as well as 46 villages including the Bealings, the Trimleys, Brightwell, Claydon, Bramford, Sproughton, Shotley, Holbrook, East Bergholt and Stratford St Mary.

If the two-unitary solution is the final recommendation to the Government, the Suffolk rural unitary will take in Beccles, Bungay, Southwold, Halesworth, Aldeburgh, Woodbridge, Wickham Market, Stowmarket, Needham Market, Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Newmarket, Brandon, Long Melford, Sudbury, Lavenham, and Hadleigh, with a population of 396,000.

Although there was initial rejoicing at Ipswich that it would form the nucleus of a unitary based on the town's travel-to-work area, it could still lose out if the Boundary Committee finds support from the public throughout Suffolk for a single unitary county, a solution which has already been adopted in Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and Herefordshire and is being proposed for Norfolk.

Max Caller, chairman of the Boundary Committee, said: “The Secretary of State has asked us for advice on unitary local government in both counties. These proposals take a fresh look at local government in Suffolk and Norfolk.”

He appealed to the public to read the documents and to comment on them in the next 12 weeks. These responses would be used in the final submission to the Government.

“We've spent a lot of time in the counties talking to individuals and councils, and we think these proposals have the potential to offer people in Suffolk and Norfolk stronger local government capable of providing better and more efficient services to meet the challenges that will face them.”

It is not yet clear whether Lowestoft will be physically incorporated into Norfolk if the BCE's get the go-ahead. Policing and fire services would be provided by Norfolk, there is already a Waveney and Great Yarmouth health authority, and the town is within the Anglican diocese of Norfolk.

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