Ikea warehouse gets green light

A FURIOUS campaigner who led a march on Suffolk County Council protesting against a giant Ikea warehouse he says will destroy his village last night hit out at residents for failing to join his crusade.

By James Mortlock

A FURIOUS campaigner who led a march on Suffolk County Council protesting against a giant Ikea warehouse he says will destroy his village last night hit out at residents for failing to join his crusade.

Fred Rutherford wanted 1,000 villagers to descend on the St Edmundsbury Borough Council offices in Bury St Edmunds yesterday for a planning meeting which saw the controversial scheme approved almost unanimously.

It is estimated the new warehouse at Stanton – which will be almost three times the size of Stansted Airport's terminal building – will create around 300 jobs.

But the Great Barton villager failed to win the support he wanted for direct action he felt would have convinced the council to throw out the plans.

Only days ago he resigned as chairman of the Great Barton Action Group, which was set up to campaign for a bypass for the traffic-choked village and to oppose the scheme by the Scandinavian furniture giant. He has also stood down as a member of the village's parish council.

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Mr Rutherford, who says the 300 extra lorries which will use the A143 road through Great Barton every day thanks to the warehouse will make its centre a no-go area, stressed: "There was no will in the village to protest and without it this was a foregone conclusion.

"If we could have got the 1,000 villagers (half the community) who signed our petition against the warehouse to demonstrate at the council offices, things might have been different. This will effectively destroy the village as we know it."

The leader of last year's march on Suffolk County Council in Ipswich, who believes Ikea's decision to locate its distribution centre at Stanton's Shepherd's Grove industrial estate will attract other big business to the area, said the scheme would make the village post office - at the heart of the community on the route of the A143 near Bury St Edmunds - too frightening for most people to use.

However, Derek Firth, chairman of the parish council, said that while he was "disgusted" by the backing of the 114,900 square metre warehouse, he was hopeful the decision would improve Great Barton's chances of winning a vital bypass.

"I feel it is very bad news for Great Barton and will further reduce the quality of life for people living here. But Great Barton is the only significant community along the route of the A143 from the east coast down to Bury that doesn't have a bypass.

"We hope this decision will make that a priority."

People living in other villages around the A143 in the Stanton area say the "ill thought-out" plans will also leave them with unbearable traffic problems.

Nurse Sheryl Watson, who lives close to the A143 in Hepworth, said news of the decision was devastating.

She said: "There have been numerous accidents, including fatal crashes, on the road this year. I have seen the results for myself as I attend accidents with my husband, who is a Suffolk Accident Rescue Service doctor and the number is going to go up twice fold as people will be even more frustrated.

"The noise and rise in pollution is also going to be unbearable."

Margaret Horbury, who represents Great Barton on St Edmundsbury council, said the warehouse would be good for Stanton but added: "I believe Ikea should have looked for somewhere nearer the A14.

"It all seems very ill thought-out to subject a village like Great Barton to such heavy traffic. The situation is bad enough already and this is only going to get worse."

The scheme will include a new roundabout on the A143 to take heavy lorries out of Stanton and Brian Holden, vice chairman of Stanton parish council, welcomed the decision as a positive step for the region as a whole.

Don Ayre, acting director of environment and transport at the county council, said there was no doubt the Ikea store would increase traffic using the A143.

And he stressed: "The council recognises that the A143 through Great Barton is far from ideal. That's why one of the conditions placed on Ikea is to carry out a full assessment and full consultation with villagers about what's needed to make life easier.

"Hopefully, they will be able to improve the situation for pedestrians and cyclists and slow the speed of traffic – making the area safer and more conducive for residents to cross the road and go about their business."

However, Mr Ayre said that on the basis of previous assessments it was unlikely Great Barton would be put forward as one of the "two at most" communities considered to be in enough need for a bypass to be put forward for Government funding in the county council's next forward plan.

The planning committee backed the Ikea scheme by 14 votes to one.