Was politician's 'cesspit down the road' jibe aimed at Ipswich?
PUBLISHED: 05:30 11 January 2019 | UPDATED: 14:36 11 January 2019
A senior Suffolk councillor has apologised after many people felt he was describing Ipswich as a "cesspit" during a meeting discussing housebuilding.
Suffolk Coastal deputy leader Geoff Holdcroft told a meeting discussing the district’s local plan that if there weren’t enough new homes built people would have to move to “that cesspit down the road” and drive back to the district to work.
Mr Holdcroft did not name Ipswich during his speech – and said later that he was not referring to any one place, but to anywhere outside the district that people have to commute from.
He said: “I should not have used those words.
“It was a passionate meeting with strong views on all sides. I didn’t mention anywhere specific in those terms – but I apologise fully to anyone who thinks I was referring to a particular place.”
He added that he had at times found it frustrating working with Ipswich council during discussions over unitary government when the borough seemed to be trying to expand its boundaries into Suffolk Coastal’s area.
Ipswich Vision Partnership chairman Terry Hunt was disappointed to hear about the comments – especially as the town has seen considerable investment recently.
He said: “If Mr Holdcroft was referring to Suffolk’s county town, I think his comment is extremely unfair.
“I would like to invite him to spend a day with me so we can walk through the town’s parks, have lunch at one of the restaurants on the Waterfront, and meet some of the people who are working very hard to make this town a better place to live and work.”
Those at the meeting were under no doubt that Mr Holdcroft was referring to Ipswich – and a video of the meeting, including the speech, was posted on the “Everything Felixstowe” Facebook Page.
Paul Durrant was in the public gallery and said the meeting seemed like a pantomime. He added: “We couldn’t believe it when he made his ‘cesspit’ comment – his fellow councillors looked really shocked.”
Mr Holdcroft said he would be accepting Mr Hunt’s invitation: “I have many friends and know of several council officers who live in Ipswich. I know a lot of people are working very hard to regenerate the town.”
‘Cesspit’ comment came during heated meeting
Mr Holdcroft was speaking during a meeting called to discuss the new Suffolk Coastal local plan which envisages thousands of new homes being built across the district.
The meeting became heated and he was making the point that new homes were needed because people were being unable to afford to buy homes in the area – despite concerns from some of his colleagues and from members of the public at the meeting that more new homes across Suffolk Coastal could change the character of the area and turn it into a more urban environment.
He said: “It is not fair to our young people to expect them to move away from this area to find jobs and perhaps homes.
“Perhaps to commute back to jobs. Many people perhaps have to move to that cesspit down the road (I won’t name it, to be accused of abusing them) to live but come back to work in our district.
“That’s my bit of a diatribe!”
Ellesmere’s surprise at comments over ‘cesspit down the road’
Ipswich Council leader David Ellesmere was surprised to hear about Mr Holdcroft’s comments – but feared that they may betray a continuing negative attitude towards the county town.
He said: “I was with Geoff yesterday at a meeting, we always get on very well so I am surprised by this.
“If he was referring to Ipswich as a ‘cesspit’ then it really is a case of the mask slipping and we are seeing what those in the county – and especially Conservative politicians – think of Suffolk’s county town.
“I think it is time that everyone across the county, whether they live in towns, villages or right here, recognise that you cannot have a successful Suffolk without a successful Ipswich.
“There are many people working very hard to make Ipswich a better place to live and work – and we need support from everyone. Hopefully this kind of attitude can be consigned to history as improvements come forward in Ipswich.”