Homes consultation branded 'disgraceful'
A COMMUNITY consultation aimed at gauging opinion on a controversial housing development has been attacked as "disgraceful".The three-day consultation was carried out at a range of venues across Ipswich in a bid to inform local people about the proposed development on the town's northern fringe.
A COMMUNITY consultation aimed at gauging opinion on a controversial housing development has been attacked as "disgraceful".
The three-day consultation was carried out at a range of venues across Ipswich in a bid to inform local people about the proposed development on the town's northern fringe.
The development, which forms part of the draft Ipswich Local Plan, could see 1,500 new homes built along with a new district shopping centre and a school.
Ipswich Borough Council brought in consultants Shillam and Smith to carry out the consultation exercise, which was completed at the end of May.
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But Richard Stewart, a Westerfield Road resident who attended consultation at Victoria Nurseries in the road, said he believed the exercise was poorly organised.
He said the consultants were more than twenty minutes late – prompting many people to go home – and claimed they did not provide enough information about the plans.
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Mr Stewart said: "This woeful exercise was in an area of Ipswich traditionally known for its high voting percentages in local elections and surely the consultants knew that this proposed development was a highly contentious issue.
"The consultants were appointed by Ipswich Borough Council and I think their performance at Victoria Nurseries turned an advertised professional consultation exercise into a cosmetic charade that must, in the eyes of many attending, have served just to give some political credibility to a decision that had already been made."
Wendy Shillam, a partner in Shillam and Smith, accepted the company was late to the Victoria Nurseries consultation, but said the problems stemmed from a large turnout at an earlier event and traffic congestion.
She added: "It is unforgivable, but I'm afraid that sometimes even with the best arrangements, it's unavoidable.
"I think we were victims of our own success – we had many more people turn up than we expected.
"We are not going to keep everyone happy, but we had some very useful conversations with many people."
Miss Shillam said that some 200 in-depth questionnaires were filled in during the consultation, which the company will now analyse.
A draft report will then be prepared for the borough council at the end of this month, with a full report set to be completed by the end of July.
Of the consultation's findings, Miss Shillam added: "As you might expect, some people are concerned about the development, particularly in Westerfield village where they want to keep the village separate from the development.
"That said, I think there's a recognition that people have got to have somewhere to live and it was interesting to see a number of people expressed a need for affordable housing themselves and for their children.
"We have got a wide range of responses in terms of age, sex and ethnicity which is really important – it went very well."