Felixstowe: Superstore meeting venue ‘will exclude public from debate’

A computer-generated view showing the environment proposed by the Walton Green development project a

A computer-generated view showing the environment proposed by the Walton Green development project at Felixstowe. - Credit: Archant

Uproar has greeted an announcement that one of the biggest decisions for years affecting a seaside town will be made nearly 20 miles away at a hotel which is not on a direct bus route.

Suffolk Coastal says its council chamber is not big enough to hold the people from Felixstowe who may want to hear the debate on the three applications for superstores for the resort.

So it has decided to hold the meeting on September 19 at Ufford Park Hotel, which has no direct public transport links, and is further away than the authority’s headquarters at Melton.

Roy Gray, of the Walton Felixstowe Community First campaign group, which is fighting the superstore proposals, said: “We think this decision is completely wrong – ridiculous.

“The councillors will be discussing three applications affecting Felixstowe, big decisions for the future of Felixstowe, and Felixstowe people want to be involved.

“There is no public transport and many people who would like to hear the debate will not be able to get there.”

Town and district councillor Kimberley Williams said Felixstowe had suitable venues, such as the leisure centre or the Orwell Hotel, where the council has held important planning meetings before – or even Trinity Park at Bucklesham – and one of these should have been chosen.

Most Read

She said: “I think it is a real mistake and public perception will be that the venue has been chosen deliberately to exclude the public from being there. It is not reasonable at all.”

Councillors will have on the table three applications:

? A 30-acre site called Walton Green in Walton High Street, featuring a 30,000sq ft Tesco, cafe, community building, business units, allotments, link road, and live/work units.

? A 20,000sq ft Asda and petrol filling station at haven Exchange, Walton Avenue.

? A 30,000sq ft store and public transport interchange on land at the railway station.

A Suffolk Coastal spokesman said the council’s policy was to hold planning meetings at its headquarters in Melton Hill, in Woodbridge, or in the nearest available suitable premises.

He said: “In this case, it was felt that the council offices were not big enough to house the special meeting of the south area development management sub-committee and the nearest available premises with facilities to allow us to stage the meeting was Ufford Park Hotel.

“If we did move the meeting to a venue purely based on the geographic location of the applications on the agenda, we would be setting a precedent that we could not hope to follow in the future.”