Isolated Suffolk residents present district council with petition demanding improved bus service in the Combs Ford area
PUBLISHED: 08:58 28 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:24 28 February 2018
A group of isolated Suffolk residents have organised a petition calling for improved bus services in their area.
Residents of the Combs Ford area have gathered 291 signatures calling for a better service and sent the petition to Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds, and Mid Suffolk District Council (MSDC).
The group want improved transport links which they say were supported by the district council’s planning committee when it approved 75 new homes in the area back in 2014.
The Edgecomb Park development, set up as part of the Stowmarket Area Action Plan (SAAP), was designed in part to improve public transport linkages between the site, the town centre and the local facilities at Combs Ford.
Specifically addressing the demand of an ageing population, the 75 homes off Poplar Hill and Farriers Road should have been accessible by public transport networks – as the official development brief stated: “The district council aims to promote further bus services in the area of the site and the option exists to connect the route between Poplar Hill and Farriers Road with a bus-only link.”
However no such improvements to public transport services were made, leaving residents feeling frustrated and isolated.
Gareth Betts-Davies, speaking on behalf of the Green Party town councillors supporting the campaign, said there had actually been a decline in services.
“Given that the 75 homes will yield £400,000 plus in New Homes Bonus over the next 4 years, shared between MSDC (80%) and SCC (20%), is seems only appropriate the residents of Stowmarket ask why a subsidy for such an important service has not been made available,” he said.
“For some, the decline has led to increasing isolation and loneliness. Others will no doubt retain their cars and drive into the centre, increasing air pollution levels and putting extra pressure on the limited parking spaces. The Ipswich Road is already full of pot holes so really doesn’t need any additional pressure.
“Surely, we should be improving and promoting access to ensure a busy and economically vibrant town centre, not allowing such degradation to our services.”
Local resident, Melissa Williams added: “Sometimes the bus is really full. No disabled access or room for shopping trolleys or mobility aids makes it not accessible to all. We feel a little bit cut off up here now.”
Nick Gowrley, leader of MSDC, said: “There is a real need for new homes in Stowmarket, and our residents understand that, and have been willing to work with developers to shape the future of the town. But those new homes cannot be built in isolation: they need to be connected to the wider area and to the town centre to create a real, sustainable community in Stowmarket, not simply collections of isolated suburbs.
“Public transport connections are vital and ensuring bus provision throughout Combs Ford must be a priority not only to benefit the people of the Combs Ford and to reduce car journeys, but also to demonstrate to the wider community that development can be done in a way that benefits everyone. I have passed the petition onto the Planning Committee for their attention, and I will also be speaking with Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for passenger transport to see what can be done to replace the Galloway service that was withdrawn.”