Unitary planning gets underway

PLANS to redraw the map of Suffolk move nearer this week as the Boundary Committee for England talks to political leaders about just how many parishes should be absorbed into a Greater Ipswich unitary authority.

Graham Dines

PLANS to redraw the map of Suffolk move nearer this week as the Boundary Committee for England talks to political leaders about just how many parishes should be absorbed into a Greater Ipswich unitary authority.

One option being considered is to include Felixstowe and both the Deben and Shotley peninsulas in what would in effect would be a South Suffolk unitary.

When the Government rejected in December Ipswich's stand alone unitary bid and the county council's pathfinder proposals, it asked the impartial Boundary Committee to come up with plans for a unitary solution for Suffolk, including the possibility of a Greater Ipswich and also the merger of Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth in what would become a cross-border urban Yartoft unitary around the rivers Waveney and Yare.

Just how far Ipswich's boundaries are extended - is being discussed this week. The leaders and deputy leaders of the three political parties on Ipswich council meet with the Boundary Committee today and on Friday, the BCE will talk to the political leaders and chief officers of Suffolk and district authorities.

Ipswich council's executive will discuss a number of proposals on Tuesday, one of which would create a unitary authority in South Suffolk with a population of more than 200,000.

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The first option encompasses Ipswich and the parishes of Belstead, Pinewood, Sproughton, and Wherstead which are currently in Babergh, Bramford, Claydon, Barham, Great Blakenham, Whitton from Mid Suffolk, and Foxhall, Kesgrave, Nacton and Purdis Farm from Suffolk Coastal.

Minor variations are to be considered which would include either or both of Rushmere St Andrew and Martlesham from Suffolk Coastal.

The second proposal would include all of option one plus Felixstowe and the Deben peninsula while a third option would be for one and two plus the Shotley peninsula.

Ipswich's opposition Labour leader David Ellesmere is likely to speak against a massive Ipswich land grab, which would see mostly Tory voting parishes absorbed into the borough. “We want a tight, urban Ipswich.”

The BCE's recommendations will be published in the summer for public consultation being firmed up for ministerial approval. With St Edmundsbury's council leader John Griffiths pushing for a West Suffolk unitary, the shape of the new county will depend on what the Committee's thinking is on Waveney, and particularly Lowestoft.

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