Vision for Suffolk's future is revealed

COMMUNITY leaders have spelt out their vision for Suffolk over the next 20 years - pledging to transform the county into one of the strongest in the country.

Craig Robinson

COMMUNITY leaders have spelt out their vision for Suffolk over the next 20 years - pledging to transform the county into one of the strongest in the country.

The ambitious plans will focus on a wide range of areas including the economy, transport, education, housing, environment and health services.

They were outlined yesterday at the launch of Transforming Suffolk ­- a 60-page document that describes how community bosses want to move the county forward until 2028.

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The report has been compiled by the Suffolk Strategic Partnership (SSP), which is made up of community leaders from across the county.

By 2028 the group wants the region to be recognised for “its outstanding environment and quality of life for all; a place where each person can realise their potential, benefit from and contribute to Suffolk's economic prosperity and be actively involved in the economy.”

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To achieve these targets the focus will be on four key policies: a prosperous and vibrant economy, safe and healthy communities, making Suffolk the greenest county and learning and skills development.

Lady Clare Euston, chairman of the partnership, said: “Transforming Suffolk is a rather ambitious title - there are a lot of elements to the county that we don't want to change and many things that we feel are important to preserve.

“However if we are to survive in a much more difficult world - not just here but nationally and internationally as well - we are going to have to face a lot of difficulties in the years ahead.

“As a result we have got to plan ahead because we need to improve a lot of the basic building blocks of the county if we are to meet these challenges.

“It will be 20 years of hard graft - we are not going to achieve a miracle overnight and it will be a huge amount of effort but at the same time it's very exciting.”

The document has already been sent off to the Government and ministers will now decide on how much money to give the county for its plans.

“From our point of view the sooner we find out how much we are getting the better,” Lady Euston said. “We're eager to push forward as soon as possible and things are already on the move.”


1. The most innovative and diverse economy in region

Suffolk's economy currently has some “worrying disparities” according to the SSP's report.

“Whilst the south has seen substantial housing and jobs growth over the last five years, Waveney has experienced a net loss of jobs and slowed housing growth,” the document states. “Earnings and skills levels are lower in west Suffolk than for the rest if the county because the workforce is dependent on the declining sectors of agriculture, food processing and specifically manufacturing. Half the Haverhill workforce commutes to Cambridge.”

In a bid to redress these inequalities the SSP has outlined a number of areas that need to be maximised over the next 20 years.

It believes the county has the opportunity to become the European leader in renewable energy, with the north Suffolk coast providing ideal conditions for generating offshore wind energy.

Meanwhile there will also be a focus on information technology and knowledge based industries along the Ipswich to Cambridge corridor, with negotiations already underway to develop a Suffolk Innovation Park next to the BT headquarters at Adastral Park, Martlesham, which could create 1,700 jobs.

It is also hoped the county will be a “key player” in the biotech industry and that business chiefs can take advantage of west Suffolk's proximity to Essex and Cambridge and West Suffolk College's plans to develop an aerospace centre of excellence.

There are also plans in the pipeline for a “food hub” for Suffolk's large agricultural industry to create better links between producers and local and regional markets.

Essential to all this will be an investment in public transport including substantial improvements to the Felixstowe Nuneaton and Ipswich to London rail lines, the A14 and increasing the capacity on the A12, the SSP said.

2. Learning and skills

Within the next 20 years the SSP wants to create a workforce with the skills to meet the needs of the county's economy and provide learning opportunities.

The number of young people aged 16-18 not in education, employment or training is a significant challenge and the areas with greatest need include Forest Heath, Haverhill, Lowestoft and Ipswich.

The SSP want to increase the number of young people and adults who achieve higher level skills and qualifications and eliminate geographical variations.

It will do this through a “learning renaissance” with the establishment of University Campus Suffolk (UCS), new and refurbished school facilities, a new college and 16-19 centre serving south Suffolk and modernisation of Lowestoft and West Suffolk College campuses.

There us also a need for employers to take up the support available and train their workforce - especially those with low qualifications or basic skills.

3. The greenest county

By 2028 the aim is to reduce Suffolk's carbon footprint by 60% while at the same time maintaining and enhancing the county's natural and historic environment.

This will involve a more sustainable approach- including better energy efficiency, the use of renewable resources, improved water consumption measures and ensuring any new developments are within easy reach of existing services to reduce the need to travel.

There will also be promotion of “eco-schools” and travel plans to encourage waking, cycling and use of public transport along with a county wide car sharing initiative.

Meanwhile historic sites and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty will be maintained through sensitive agricultural policies and development schemes.

4. Safe and healthy lifestyles

In 20 years the SSP want the county to have reduced crime and disorder, a decline in the fear of crime and communities safeguarded from harm.

While Suffolk has a good record of tackling crime the group warn it must “guard against complacency” to ensure the good performance continues.

It also highlights the need to be aware of the growing threat of terrorism - especially because of the nuclear power plant at Sizewell and the Port of Felixstowe.

The SSP also want people to pursue a healthy lifestyle and reduce the gap in health inequalities through a focus on prevention.

There will also be programmes encouraging children to lead healthier lifestyles and improved support for those with mental illness.

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