St Edmundsbury Borough Council - Can Labour regain the ‘jewel in Suffolk’s crown’ from the Tories?
- Credit: Gregg Brown
The Conservative party has a strong majority at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, with 35 councillors, writes west Suffolk reporter Mariam Ghaemi as she looks at the political issues in the borough ahead of the local elections.
The other parties only have a handful of seats between them – the Greens have one, Labour has three and UKIP has one – while the Liberal Democrats do not feature at all. Four seats are held by independent councillors.
The Conservatives have held onto power at St Edmundsbury Borough Council since 2003, and prior to that there was a rainbow coalition for just a year.
Labour last had control of the council from 1995 to 1999.
The Conservatives are still expected to be in control following the election in May, but potentially with a reduced majority. It is thought UKIP may win a few seats in Haverhill.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council was established in 1974.
• See a full list of candidates hereThe borough of St Edmundsbury is named after its main town, Bury St Edmunds, dubbed the “jewel in the crown of Suffolk”.
Despite the recession, Bury – with a population of more than 35,000 – has thrived, with a shop vacancy rate which is consistently below the regional and national averages.
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The town is popular with tourists, which is no surprise as it boasts an enviable mix of shops, restaurants, the award-winning Abbey Gardens, medieval quarter and cathedral.
And it regularly features in ‘best places to live’ lists in national newspapers because of its good quality of life, many attractions and excellent schools.
But, like in many places, lack of affordable housing is a key issue – one which a number of candidates will be focusing on in the election.
Prices to rent and buy in the town have steadily crept up, making it particularly difficult for young people to get their foot on the housing ladder.
As part of the borough’s local plan, Vision 2031 – which was adopted last year – about 6,000 new homes are set to be built around the town, with the bulk of the growth at five strategic sites,
While new homes – particularly those that are affordable – are desperately needed, this level of development raises new issues.
During the Vision 2031 process, townspeople and a number of council representatives raised concerns over the impact of the growth on Bury’s road network, which is already under strain at key junctions.
As the housing developments come forward, this will be an ongoing issue, which will need to be taken up with Suffolk County Council, which has responsibility for roads and transport.
Moving towards more sustainable modes of transport – such as walking, cycling and using buses – is unsurprisingly supported by the Green Party and, as well as the environmental benefits, would ease congestion on the roads. Other candidates too are campaigning on traffic and/or parking issues, with suggestions including out-of-town parking.
The train service from Bury St Edmunds – which could really help ease parking and traffic problems created by commuters – does not meet the needs of a growing town, and should be a focus for candidates.
Local authority plans for a major waste site on the outskirts of Bury, near Fornham St Martin, is currently a hot topic, with more than 700 names on petitions against the proposal.
While many accept dealing efficiently with waste produced from homes and businesses is vital, they believe the location at Hollow Farm Road is the wrong site and should be further away from homes and with better access to the A14.
The second town in the borough is Haverhill, which often feels it is in Bury’s shadow.
But there is an active community in the town which fights for its interests and improvements. Currently, work in under way to develop a town centre masterplan which will be a guide for developing the centre.
The masterplan, which is being driven by the ONE Haverhill group, is looking at the type and mix of uses that could be accommodated in the town centre, how people move around and ways the streets and spaces could be enhanced and made more attractive.
The process will also identify a range of projects for Haverhill that can build on the success of existing investment in the town.
The town has seen a surge in job creation over recent years, with the ongoing development of the town’s Business Park hoped to boost the economy, along with the successful Research Park, which has seen the town capitalise on the Cambridge-centred science and tech industries.
Recently, formal planning permission was granted for the north-west Haverhill development, which will provide up to 1,150 houses, of which 30% will be affordable, and include a relief road linking Withersfield Road with Wratting Road.
This significant achievement for the town will also include community facilities, healthcare provision and a primary school.
St Edmundsbury is very much a rural borough, which is scattered with hamlets and villages. Key issues for these communities – and election candidates – will be access to jobs and affordable housing, local healthcare provision and improved public transport and broadband.
These areas tend to be a Conservative heartland.
Abbeygate (first two elected): Jo Rayner (C) 1169, Andrew Speed (C) 893, Paul Rynsard (Gn) 759, Robin Bennett (L) 691, Judy Broadway (LD) 635. Maj: 276. Turnout: 65.96%. No change.
Bardwell: Paula Wade (C) 867, Cyrille Bouche (L) 309, James Lumley (UKIP) 293. Maj 558. Turnout: 73.3%. No change.
Barningham: Carol Bull (C) – elected uncontested.
Barrow: Ian Houlder (C) 845, Zigurds Kronbergs (LD) 345, Andrew Whiting (L) 195. Maj: 500. Turnout: 75.2%. No change.
Cavendish: Peter Stevens (C) 779, Stuart Letten (UKIP) 406. Maj: 373. Turnout: 72.86%. No change.
Chedburgh: Angela Rushen (C)* – elected uncontested.
Clare: Alaric Pugh (C) 808, David Reynolds (UKIP) 323. Maj: 485. Turnout: 69.75%. No change.
Eastgate: Patsy Warby (C) 612, Nicola Ridgeway (L) 518. Maj: 94. Turnout: 61.10%. No change.
Fornham: Beccy Hopfensperger (C) 894, Shirley Stephenson (L) 336. Maj: 558. Turnout: 73.01%. No change.
Haverhill West (first two elected): Margaret Marks (C) 1150, David Roach (C) 978, Mark Dorey (UKIP) 852, Mary Dunning (L) 720. Maj: 172. Turnout: 62.2%. No change.
Horringer and Whelnetham: Terry Clements (C) 905, Robin Davies (L) 411. Maj: 504. Turnout: 76%. No change.
Hundon: Jeremy Farthing (C) 752, Paul Stigwood (UKIP) 435. Maj: 317. Turnout: 71.9%. No change.
Ixworth: John Griffiths (C)* – elected uncontested.
Kedington: Karen Richardson (C) 595, Bryan Hawes (UKIP) 305, Stephen Nutt (L) 223. Maj: 290. Turnout: 71.4%. No change.
Minden (first two elected): Robert Everitt (C) 1069, Clive Springett (C) 768, Jonathan Hartley (L) 583, Chris Riley (UKIP) 543, Mark Ereira-Guyer (Gn) 530, Martin Trnecka (Gn) 331. Maj: 301. No change.
Moreton Hall (first three elected): Frank Warby (C) 1862, Terry Buckle (C) 1668, Peter Thompson (C) 1551,Trevor Beckwith (Ind) 1428, Cliff Hind (L) 961. Maj: 194. Turnout: 68.67%. C gain one from Ind.
Northgate: Diane Hind (L) 521, Carl Poole (C) 502. Maj: 19. Turnout: 55.71%. No change.
Pakenham: Simon Brown (C) 926, Gill Malik (L) 321. Maj: 605. Turnout: 61.14%. No change.
Risby: Susan Glossop (C) – elected uncontested.
Risbygate (first two elected): David Nettleton (Ind) 1067, Julia Wakelam (Gn) 928, Rod Barrett (C) 926, Marilyn Sayer (L) 558. Maj: 139. Turnout: 62.87%. No change.
Rougham: Sara Mildmay-White (C) 967, Kevin Hind (L) 351. Maj 616. Turnout: 71.99%. No change.
Southgate (first two elected): Patrick Chung (C) 1507, Sarah Stamp (C) 1179, Jan Lavender (L) 586, Chris Lale (LD) 490, Colin Freeman (UKIP) 450. Maj: 328. Turnout: 71.5%. No change.
St Olaves (first two elected): Paul Hopfensperger (Ind) 835, Bob Cockle (L) 699, Tom Murray (C) 677, Quentin Cornish (L) 462. Maj: 136. Turnout: 51.49%. No change.
Stanton: Jim Thorndyke (C)* – elected uncontested.
Westgate (first two elected): Wayne Hailstone (C) 1129, Richard Rout (C) 964, Kevin Waterson (L) 573, Clive Reason (UKIP) 529, Stefan Oliver (Ind) 414, Martin Tilley (No description) 357. Maj: 165. Turnout: 72.52%. No change.
Withersfield: Jane Midwood (C) 617, Robert Clifton-Brown (Ind) 363, Dudley Haylock (UKIP) 200. Maj 254. Turnout: 73.4%. No change.