Felixstowe: Transport may be a factor in future for meeting changes

A computer-generated image of the Walton Green development - residents felt the debate on the projec

A computer-generated image of the Walton Green development - residents felt the debate on the project should have been held in Felixstowe. - Credit: Archant

Whether people can reach a meeting by public transport is likely to be taken into account in future when a council changes its venue for hot topics.

Felixstowe councillor Margaret Morris.

Felixstowe councillor Margaret Morris. - Credit: Archant

Suffolk Coastal received a barrage of complaints after deciding to hold the meeting to decide Felixstowe’s three superstore applications at Ufford – nearly 20 miles from the resort and not on a direct bus route.

It was decided the council chamber at Melton would not be big enough to cater for the public interest.

Most people assumed the meeting would be held in Felixstowe, but the council said it was its working practice to meet as close as possible to its HQ and did not want to set a precedent – even though planners had met in Felixstowe previously to discuss housing numbers.

Councillor Margaret Morris has asked if access via public transport can be taken into account in future.

She said: “There is a need for decisions made by Suffolk Coastal not to discriminate against residents.

“Checking that public transport is available is required as much as checking that it is accessible for people using wheelchairs or has disabled toilets.

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“To check a venue has parking without considering whether everyone who wants to attend does actually drive is sheer nonsense.

“It is assumed people can and do drive – and the response of people in Felixstowe in this instance shows many don’t.

“I am sorry the council did not wish to show any concern for non-drivers in this instance.”

Richard Best, council active communities manager, said public transport provision and timetables and the timing of events had not been considered previously.

It was a “learning and experience” matter for the council and he would take it forward in the Equality Impact Assessment guidelines and future workshops.