Suffolk: ‘Frightening’ population rise - second fastest outside London - raises fears over schools, hospitals and public services

Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council, said he was under no illusion the authority faced maj

Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council, said he was under no illusion the authority faced major challenges in providing public services to an ever-growing county. - Credit: Ashley Pickering

The “frightening” increase in the region’s population laid bare by the Government yesterday could overpopulate schools, drain hospital resources and stretch public services, it has been claimed.

The population of the east of England stood at 5,907,300 in 2012, a 0.8% increase from 2011 – the second highest growth outside London, the Office for National Statistics (ONS)reported.

It equates to nearly 3,750 extra people each month.

The new research comes after the 2011 Census revealed the region had the highest increase (8%) in population between 2001 and 2010 in the country.

Richard Beauchamp, vice chairman of the Essex branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, last night described the picture as “frightening”.

“Evidence shows there is already pressure on infrastructure and care for the elderly and children,” he said.

“The Royal College of Nursing says there are too many patients and too few staff. A&E wards are creaking under the strain.

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“It affects school places, leisure facilities and people’s emotional welfare.

“They are building on not just greenfield and brownfield sites but also the greenbelt in Essex, supposedly sacrosanct but this Government believes different.

“Food security and an increasing demand for public services are other major concerns.”

The latest Government projections predict the region’s population will soar by 19.5% between 2010 and 2030, the fastest-growing region in the country.

Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council, said he was “under no illusion” the authority faced “major challenges” in providing public services to an “ever-growing county”. “More than ever we need to make more efficient use of our resources, delivering services in imaginative and cost-effective ways,” he said.

“Expanding local schools, improving road networks and working with external organisations to deliver residential care services are just some examples of the many ways Suffolk County Council is preparing for the future.”

Christine Abraham, of Community Action Suffolk, said the organisation is helping parishes draw up plans to tackle the issue.

The ONS analysis also showed the region has the second-highest proportion of people aged 65 and over (18.2%).

Martyn Green, the chief executive of Age UK Suffolk, said: “We are actively working with a number of partners across the county to help identify how the needs of older people are likely to change in the coming years, with a view to helping the county prepare for this continued growth in demographic.

“It is fundamental that older people are supported as much as possible to retain their independence and live as actively as possible.”

Meanwhile, the research revealed the region contributed 8.7% towards the UK’s economy in 2011.

John Dugmore, CEO of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said the data represented a “growing economy” in the county.

“It shows that the hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of firms in our county continue to make a real difference,” he said.

“It also shows that the proposals to introduce a toll on the A14 would be detrimental to our economy and its recovery.”

David Burch, policy director of the Essex Chamber of Commerce, said the county has “very strong entrepreneurial activity”.

But he added: “A lot of businesses do not feel they get the same level of return from the Government in infrastructure. The A12 and A120 need improving and high-speed broadband and mobile phone networks need upgrading.”