How will the proposed new Local Area Plan affect Felixstowe?
The new Suffolk Coastal Local Area Plan is still at the "Draft" stage. IT CAN STILL BE CHANGED! The main purpose of the plan is to assign areas of land for future development (between 2019 and 2036). Once areas of land have become designated by the plan as suitable for development, it can safely be assumed that they will, at some point, be built upon.
This is what the Draft Local Plan actually says in the introduction to the Felixstowe section (3.13)
"Large scale development through a Garden Neighbourhood is proposed for Felixstowe to enable the delivery of modern leisure facilities to meet the needs of the town as well as the District and beyond. The current leisure provision at the Leisure Centre and Brackenbury Sports Centre, have reached the end of their useful life and need to be modernised. Felixstowe is the largest town in the District and has significant opportunities for future economic growth supported by the Port of Felixstowe, associated industries and tourism."
This is misleading because there is an existing budget and ongoing programme for the "delivery of modern leisure facilities" i.e. this is not at all dependent on the Garden Neighbourhood.
The current (October '18) draft plan includes several really major changes for the town. These are;
1. A major housing development - the North Felixstowe Garden Neighbourhood. This will add another 2,000 homes to the town. This is on top of the 1,600 homes that currently are already being built or have planning permission. These means that a total of 3,600 new homes are being planned for Felixstowe. We currently have around 12,000 homes so this represents about a 30% increase in the size of the population in less than 20 years. Suffolk Coastal District Council want to make Felixstowe a major growth centre.
2. A major new logistics park. The plan intends to site this on about 300 acres of farmland (Innocence Farm) that runs directly along the north side of the A14 on the approach to the town (by Trimley St Martin). Anybody coming into Felixstowe, residents and visitors alike, will have to drive right past a huge area of containers and warehouses.
3. Closure and demolition of the current leisure/sports facilities on the seafront and at Brackenbury. The council wants to build a new leisure/sports centre adjacent to the new "Garden Neighbourhood" housing estate. The Brackenbury site is to be allocated for housing.
I'M AN ORIGINAL CATCHPHRASE
What does this all mean for life in Felixstowe?
1. The North Felixstowe Garden Neighbourhood
This will be built in the area that is roughly enclosed by Gulpher Road. This pretty area includes The Grove woodland, the Eastward Ho football pitches and a children's playground. This is mainly high grade agricultural land and is an area much used and loved by Felixstowe residents for gentle leisure pursuits (and football!). It is also a wildlife haven and was described in a recent council sponsored report as Felixstowe's "green lung". It is adjacent to the Suffolk Coasts AONB. Most of this existing amenity will be lost. The council are currently saying that The Grove woodland (only) would be retained.
The plan currently shows that road access to this new estate will be provided via a couple of new junctions onto Candlet Road (the A154). This road is currently the primary ingress/egress point for road traffic into Felixstowe from the A14. The dock spur roundabout already gets busy in the rush hour. The additional traffic from the new estate will increase the length of the traffic queues at the dock spur roundabout and hence encourage commuters to look for alternative routes. Thus increasing the traffic through Walton, along the High Road West and Beatrice Avenue. No doubt that we will also be blessed with more traffic lights etc. to "help" the flow. In short, our local roads are going to get busier and more congested.
2. The New Logistics Park
This land is owned by Trinity College (Cambridge University). They submitted a planning application for this new "logistics" park a year or two ago. The Port of Felixstowe are not asking for this development. Trinity College are looking to increase the value of their property by converting the land use from agriculture to commercial. It is not clear exactly what this land would be used for, but if it becomes approved for commercial use, under the new local plan, then no doubt it would be developed. Road access is planned via the adjoining country lanes. The main impacts for Felixstowe would be;
A major eyesore on the approach to the town. It will certainly leave any visitor in no doubt that they are entering an industrial area. We currently have a reasonable level of separation between the town and the port. This will disappear. This will likely have a major negative impact on tourism and the local businesses that depend upon it. Town centre and seafront shops & cafes will suffer.
Container lorry traffic (3,000 per day) on the adjoining country roads (Kirton Road, Innocence Lane). This will be passing the Trimley St Martin Junior School. Kirton Road is currently used by pedestrians and cyclists but it will become too hostile for this with container lorries thundering past.
Destruction of yet more wildlife habitat and good agricultural land.
We should not forget that the Port of Felixstowe and it's supporting businesses provide a substantial proportion of income in the form of business rates to Suffolk Coastal District Council. SCDC will be very keen to maximise their income from this source and hence the needs of Felixstowe residents will not be at the forefront of their thinking. We need to help to change this.
3. Leisure Facilities
Suffolk Coastal currently have a budget of around 20 million pounds dedicated to the replacement and refurbishment of "built" leisure and sports facilities in Felixstowe. This is actually independent of the new Local Plan, but it is included in the plan for completeness. This could be great news for Felixstowe.
The current Leisure Centre (by the pier) opened in 1985 and cost £4.3 million. It is now 33 years old. In addition, we also have the Brackenbury sports centre, built in 1998 and so is just 20 years old. Both of these facilities have recently benefited from minor refurbishment projects.
The new Local Plan proposes to close and demolish both of these facilities and replace them with a new out-of-town leisure centre that will be part of (or adjacent to) the new Garden Neighbourhood on land that is owned by Trinity College. The plan claims that the existing facilities are "nearing the end of their useful life". Is this true? - They are not very old.
The Plan claims that provision of the new facilities is dependent upon the building of the Garden Neighbourhood (see above). This is untrue, there is an existing, separate, budget for this.
In fact the existing facilities are relatively modern, well situated, and could be fully modernised for a fraction of the cost.
Note the image shown here is taken from the council's "Leisure Vision" document.