Two items of recent news will cause the Society some concern this month. One is the awarding, by neighbouring councils, of planning permission for developments just outside the Borough boundary. Brightwell Lakes will be 2,000 houses adjacent to Adastral Park, Martlesham and Wolsey Grange is a development between Chantry Park and the A14, house building here having already started off Poplar Lane, Sproughton. This development is potentially part of Chantry Vale development which could total 1,000 homes. Both are effectively in Ipswich but will not contribute to our rateable value.

As well as speculative house building, planning permission has also been granted for commercial and industrial development on greenfield sites adjacent to the Borough boundary. For example, land alongside junction 56 (Wherstead) where there will be a new services area (fuel and fast food restaurants), a new campus-like business park and an extensive area of large sheds (distribution warehouses, trade counters or storage facilities).

Sitting on top of the Ski slope hill these combined developments will effectively move the boundary of the built-up area from Bourne Bridge to Jimmy's Farm. Ipswich is getting gradually larger by decisions taken elsewhere.

And it is the local authorities taking these decisions that is my second point. I refer to the reorganisation of local government, an old and much debated issue that is back on the agenda because of the expense of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Government have been providing additional cash to local authorities to ensure essential services continue throughout the crisis and that vulnerable members of society are cared for. It didn't take them long to realise that the more local authorities there are, the greater their total  expenditure, and that local authorities which have combined key functions are marginally cheaper to run – and so require less Government support.

In Suffolk, Babergh has combined some services with Mid Suffolk and on the coast, Suffolk Coastal and Waveney are now East Suffolk. Both of these, together with Ipswich, and Forest Heath / St Edmundsbury are District Councils which still function under the all-embracing 
County Council.

These are, however, possibly only temporary measures. The latest thinking by the Government is for unitary councils serving perhaps 400,000 people. There are a number of Unitary Authorities already in existence elsewhere across the country and, according to the Government it seems to be working.

But wait, Suffolk has about 750,000 people, which could split into two administrative organisations. East and West Suffolk seems logical, except this ignores Ipswich as a possible self-governing county town. Prior to 1974 it was a County Borough in its own right, a three way split of the county.

By creating a Unitary Authority covering the greater Ipswich conurbation – say 200,000 people – leaves the possible East and West districts with only 250,000 each, none of which meet the Government target of 400,000 to be cost effective.

I won't speculate on the outcome but you are, perhaps, beginning to appreciate the difficulties and arguments to come.

John Norman

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