Stowmarket: Anger over town’s planning blueprint

Stowmarket Town Council

Stowmarket Town Council - Credit: Archant

A COUNCILLOR has raged at officers while they were outlining a town’s 15-year plan for future jobs and homes.

Graham Harris was speaking at a Stowmarket Town Council meeting when he became animated after a presentation by officers from Mid Suffolk District Council.

The officers had given a lengthy report about the Suffolk Growth Strategy and Stowmarket Area Action Plan documents. In the Stowmarket plan the town is expected to grow, with 2,000 new homes and 3,000 jobs.

Councillor Harris said: “Stowmarket is used to being a growth area – we have been growing very much so but it is very much about people being employed; half of the town is not.

“We need jobs in this town where people can earn money and that’s not happening. I noticed such wonderful catchphrases in this. [The district council] sees Stowmarket as a big source of revenue. I do not see anything in here that’s going to alleviate the problem at all – I’m sorry, I do not.”

Peter Burrows, head of economy at Mid Suffolk, said: “The planning process is very complicated. The framework is there, it’s about trying to work together to sell Stowmarket and to get companies to buy in and start their business. We have a regeneration team of three people following up leads all the time, there are firms who want to come here but one thing they need is a planning framework.

“One company did not come into Stowmarket because of the uncertainty around the land they were buying. They did not want to come to a place where there is planning problems. If you are not open for business as a town they are not ever going to come, they will not walk through the door.”

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But councillor Harris said: “We are open for growth, we encourage businesses here.”

Mr Burrows added: “We do not want to be process driven, we want the council to be involved. National planning policy framework is in favour of growth – no framework, no control. You may think that it is a lot but it gives a lot to work with as a town centre. We need early engagement with the process.

“If you do not have any growth you will not have any money come in. You need the town centre to revitalise, so there’s a job of work for us all to do.”

The town’s population is expected to grow by almost 10% by 2020. A total of 400 homes would be built at The Ashes, 1,000 at Chilton Leys and 125 at Farriers Road. There would be 400 homes built on previously-developed land.

A petition against building on Chilton Fields playing fields has so far attracted more than 600 signatures. The council has said any views put forward would be listened to.

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