What does the future hold for Woodbridge?
- Credit: Archant
Woodbridge is set for to get new bus services and the Caterpillar Children’s Centre is safe for at least the next few years but what else is happening in Suffolk’s picturesque riverside town?
Here we look at the latest on the cheese wedge development, the future of the former Whisstocks site and Chandlery Building and the ongoing mission to unite the town.
Divergence in town - a remedy to unify the neighbourhood
Support over linking the different parts of the town began this year with an intentional effort to connect the riverside, the Thoroughfare and Market Hill more effectively to promote a togetherness within Woodbridge.
Speaking with various residents and business owners over the last few months, there has been concern of a "them and us" mind-set which town leaders are keen to dispel.
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This was proved very recently where Car Free Saturday, although receiving positive feedback from residents, also demonstrated the divide that can occur within the town.
County Councillor Chris Mapey, also the landlord of The Angel pub in Theatre Street, just before Market Hill, confirmed that his profits went down by a third on the day due to the crowds being drawn towards the Thoroughfare. It was discussed during the meeting that there would hopefully be further Car Free days with the town leaders agreeing to focus on a different part of the town each time to balance out the equation and help unite the towns different zones to work together and instil a united front.
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Riverside planning strategy
The 2019 Local Plan for the district published in January provided a vision for the community up to 2036 and identified that the riverside needed revamping "but with care" so as not to spoil the character of the area.
It was decided that only developments that would enhance the waterside's charm rather than blight the naturally calm atmosphere would go ahead with a focus on creating working environments and tourism and leisure facilities in keeping with maintaining the traditional riverside community.
Earlier this year, Everson's Boatyard's new owner assured the town that the business would remain as it always has but with structural improvements.
And with Coffeelink obtaining an alcohol license this summer after customer demand and to encourage more clients to the area, the strategy is slowly beginning to build in the hopes of the riverside becoming an up and coming destination to work and visit.
Cheese wedges debate update
The former Melton Hill Council Office's site is a long running dispute amongst residents of both Woodbridge and Melton with three planning applications for the site having now been rejected - the third one being turned down in July.
Clashes over inappropriate housing designs likened to "cheese wedges" and the lack of affordable homes for younger people wanting to get on the housing ladder caused outrage amongst the 72 people who attended the last meeting to protest against the plans. The latest application featured a variety of changes but Woodbridge Town councillors still unanimously rejected the proposal.
There have also been concerns over the inflated price of the land rising from the suggested £2.45 million benchmark to £6 million possibly escalating the issue over affordable homes.
The decision has been appealed and another meeting is planned to discuss the site at Riduna Park on October 22.
Former Whisstocks site and Chandlery Building
There is still much debate with regards to the Chandlery building at Whisstocks old boatyard, with the latest update again discussed at the council meeting this week.
Community leaders mentioned in August about possibly buying the property and it has now been agreed that Woodbridge Town Council are seriously considering gaining ownership of the building to ensure that it stays in keeping with the town's heritage and tradition.
Recommendations are being discussed and proposals will be drawn up by the town council to be discussed at the next meeting.
There was furor at the prospect of bus cuts to routes via Woodbridge with Liberal Democratic Councillor Caroline Page at the forefront of the objections.
Setting up a stall in the town on Car Free Saturday, she has so far gathered 1,500 signatures to take to the First Buses' headquarters.
Cllr Page has met with the business and information manager and the manager for transport to discuss the issue with a further official meeting involving parish councils affected by the cuts planned.
However, there was a positive step in the right direction as the Seckford Foundation have buses and bus drivers available between 10am and 4pm Monday to Friday and have offered their services to the people of Woodbridge.
Director Graham Watson is taking his offer to East Suffolk Council for discussion in a bid to ease the town's bus predicament.
Children's centre cuts - Caterpillar is safe for the next two years
On Saturday, September 14 protesters marched through the town in outrage at the Tory party proposals threat to cut Suffolk's child care facilities by a third.
Suffolk Coastal Labour Party arranged the gathering, urging members of the public to support the "Save Suffolk's Children's Centres" campaign launched in April.
A public consultation due to take place last month never happened and with Suffolk County Council admitting there was still no confirmed date for the discussion it's a frustrating issue for all involved and affected.
However, there was good news at the town council meeting this week where it was revealed that the Caterpillar Centre in Woodbridge had had their contract renewed with a guarantee that the centre would stay in the town until at least 2022.
Despite facing some serious and upsetting issues this year, Woodbridge has found potential solutions to their adversities.
Residents and leaders alike are passionate about ensuring the town's success and popularity but above all, reassuring the people of Woodbridge and proving that once united and determined, you can make anything can happen.
The future is looking bright for Woodbridge.