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Nine big issues in Suffolk being decided in 2020 - and when to expect the decisions

PUBLISHED: 11:24 01 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:10 01 January 2020

The Orwell Bridge aerodynamic study is expected in January 2020. Picture: ARCHANT

The Orwell Bridge aerodynamic study is expected in January 2020. Picture: ARCHANT

Councils in Suffolk are preparing for a busy 2020. Suffolk local democracy reporter Jason Noble takes a look at the big issues that are coming up.

School transport in Suffolk proved an issue in 2019 with the new policy. Picture: RACHEL EDGESchool transport in Suffolk proved an issue in 2019 with the new policy. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

Northern bypass

For an issue that has been in the making for decades it may seem something of a misnomer to list it in the big issues of 2020.

But the results of the public consultation on potential routes, which ended in September, has yet to be released because of the General Election.

In its timeline mapped out early in 2019, Suffolk County Council said it would be completing a strategic outline business case to be shared with the public in the autumn of 2019. We are now expecting that in the coming weeks.

A campaign to save under-threat children's centres was launched outside Hillside in Ipswich. 

Picture: RACHEL EDGEA campaign to save under-threat children's centres was launched outside Hillside in Ipswich. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

Given the amount of land such a route could carve up between the A12 and A14, and the number of homes that may need to be built to go with it, it's unsurprising it's been something of a controversial issue.

Expect more battle lines to be drawn once the next report is made public.

Housing

A CGI image of what the new-look Burtons arts and media hub could look like. Picture: DAN FISHERA CGI image of what the new-look Burtons arts and media hub could look like. Picture: DAN FISHER

There isn't a council in the country where housing isn't an issue of some kind, but in 2020 it's likely to be a big talking point for Babergh and Mid Suffolk.

The joint local plan - effectively a blueprint for where development should be in the next 20 years - is currently going through the system, and should be signed off in the next year.

It's such an important document because to date the authorities have been open to speculative developers. Having an approved plan means unsustainable developments can be refused with a significantly reduced chance of an appeal being successful.

For communities around Sproughton and Bramford, which are facing a barrage of applications which could quadruple the size of those villages, this plan could be key to protecting the future of those areas.

New Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has publicly said he will be demanding answers from Highways England on the Orwell bridge closures report. Picture; PAUL GEATERNew Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has publicly said he will be demanding answers from Highways England on the Orwell bridge closures report. Picture; PAUL GEATER

School transport

Suffolk County Council's new school transport policy introduced in September was nothing short of a fiasco.

Appeal numbers increased sixfold, siblings were split between different schools and some were given incorrect passes altogether.

The northern bypass issue has divided people, with Stop the Northern Bypass one of several campaign groups to have been formed. Picture: NEIL DIDSBURYThe northern bypass issue has divided people, with Stop the Northern Bypass one of several campaign groups to have been formed. Picture: NEIL DIDSBURY

After much public pressure, the council agreed to launch a review of how that was implemented, with the results of that expected to emerge in January.

The council's scrutiny committee has also asked for figures to see if the anticipated savings are being delivered.

Affected parents are eagerly awaiting details on what, if anything, will change.

An artist's impression of what Sizewell C will look like. Suffolk Preservation Society aims to help communities that feel powerless in the fight against such big new projects. Picture: EDFAn artist's impression of what Sizewell C will look like. Suffolk Preservation Society aims to help communities that feel powerless in the fight against such big new projects. Picture: EDF

Orwell Bridge

The aerodynamic study into the wind closures on the Orwell Bridge has been completed, and was pledged by the end of 2019.

That document has yet to emerge, and the county's MPs have publicly voiced their frustration at the lack of answers to date on how to prevent closures.

The report will inform all the next steps - whether cars can continue to use the bridge in high winds and whether wind breaks could be added - and is now expected at the end of January.

Chief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham is expected to publish his independent report on the school transport review at the end of January. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNChief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham is expected to publish his independent report on the school transport review at the end of January. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Sizewell C

Another long-running issue which has been somewhat controversial has been the Sizewell C development.

EDF says it has completed its last public consultation and is expected to submit the development order in late spring.

But will the final plans have addressed all the concerns of locals, councils and environmental groups?

Children's centres

News of planned cuts to children's centres leaked at the tail end of the summer, with plans to close two entirely, reduce nine to part time hours and convert 11 into either nurseries or special educational needs facilities.

The council has pledged to offer more of an outreach-style service which operates in the communities, but for many these centres are lifelines.

The public consultation on the plans was expected at the tail end of 2019 but has still not begun, so an early 2020 slot seems most likely.

Council tax

All the county's authorities must approve their budgets for 2020/21 realistically by the end of February, and that includes news of potential service cutbacks and council tax.

Suffolk County Council has made its first draft public, and in good news has no planned cuts to services.

But a 4% rise for the council tax element is on the cards, and the district and boroughs may well up their share slightly too.

Ipswich sports

Ipswich Borough Council launched a review of its sports offering in 2019, which looked at all areas of what it provided and areas where new opportunities could be sought.

While no date has been earmarked for the findings of that it will be sometime in 202 and will determine whether the council can continue to make its gyms financially viable, or indeed whether it could introduce new facilities.

Ipswich Waterfront gateway

Ipswich Borough Council now owns all the land at the entrance of the waterfront, and is embarking on ambitious plans to make it more appealing and connect better with the town centre.

Plans for the arts and media hub in the old Burton's building have already been unveiled, and new road and paving completed. But the temporary car park area is still up for discussion and it is understood council chiefs are keen for that to become a welcoming, open public space.

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